Balancing the Needs of All Services Provided by Global Water Resources

  • Elizabeth Curmi
  • Keith Richards
  • Richard Fenner
  • Grant M. Kopec
  • Bojana Bajželj
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


Global assessments of water use tend to focus on the supply side, where data on physical hydrology provide an apparently (but often questionable) secure underpinning. However, one difficulty with this approach is that it struggles to deal with the issues of multiple uses of water and of treatment and recycling. Another is that global analysis offers little guidance to water policy and management, which invariably and necessarily act at more local scales. An alternative approach is therefore to evaluate demand for the goods and services offered by water, to both human beings and to ecosystems, and then to map these demands back onto resource flows. This paper describes the sources (precipitation, surface water and groundwater) and the uses of water in delivering all of its services (including its provisioning of environmental services), and uses two Sankey diagrams to visualise this system. The results stress the need for an integrated assessment of all water sources and services, simultaneously considering human and ecosystem needs, and highlighting the need to improve human water-use efficiency and productivity rather than lazily invading further the needs of ecosystems on whose additional services humans rely.


Environmental Flow Water Footprint Virtual Water Global Water Virtual Water Trade 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research on which this paper is based is financially supported by BP as part of its Energy Sustainability Challenge Initiative, and we gratefully acknowledge this. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Julian Allwood, Professor Chris Gilligan, Professor John Dennis, Professor Paul Linden, Professor Danny Ralph, Professor John Pyle and Dr. Richard McMahon for their excellent contributions. The views expressed in the paper are solely those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Curmi
    • 1
  • Keith Richards
    • 2
  • Richard Fenner
    • 1
  • Grant M. Kopec
    • 1
  • Bojana Bajželj
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EngineeringUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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