The rapidly increasing global demand for fresh water exceeds its limited supply. Human activities, such as agricultural production, are putting available water resources for natural ecosystems under pressure. Existing governance focuses on blue water (surface and groundwater), grey and black water (polluted water) and transboundary water. However, green water (water in soils and plants) and atmospheric water (water in the atmosphere), receive far less attention despite being key components in the hydrological cycle and fundamental for supporting life on land. Hence, it is critical to explicitly integrate these two neglected components of the hydrological cycle into the governance agenda.
This project addresses three topics:
(a) Rethinking how to appropriately address these limited water resources within the governance arena;
(b) Studying strategies for equitably sharing and optimally using these resources, especially in degrading environments across the globe where the risk of desertification and the crossing of other environmental tipping points is high;
(c) Considering the growing risk that technology, including ecosystem-based geo-engineering approaches, may pose by exacerbating existing ‘water grabbing’ by converting green and atmospheric water into un-usable water. For instance, inter-basin water transfers, large reforestation projects and other technologies lead to large-scale manipulation and short-circuiting of the water cycle.
The main research question is hence as follows: How can we anticipate the key socio-ecological challenges associated with green and atmospheric water and its relation to land degradation and design key elements of a proactive multi-level water governance system? The research will develop interdisciplinary methodologies for analysing green and atmospheric water issues and design principles and instruments for governing green and atmospheric water.