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A coupled human-natural system analysis of freshwater security under climate and population change

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Jim Yoon, Christian Klassert, Philip Selby, Thibaut Lachaut, Stephen Knox, Nicolas Avisse, Julien Harou, Amaury Tilmant, Bernd Klauer, Daanish Mustafa, Katja Sigel, Samer Talozi, Erik Gawel, Josue Medellín-Azuara, Bushra Bataineh, Hua Zhang, Steven M. Gorelick

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020431118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
Published6 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank staff in the Jordanian MWI, WAJ, JVA, Ministry of Agriculture, and Department of Statistics for provision of data and reports for the analysis. We are particularly grateful for support provided by Dr. Hazim El-Naser and Ali Subah at MWI and Refaat Bani Khalaf at WAJ. We also thank Mohammad Bataineh and Amin Badr El-Din for their support over the course of the project. Additional data and information were provided by the US Geological Survey and the US Agency for International Development. The Economic Research Forum and the Jordanian Department of Statistics granted the researchers access to relevant data, after subjecting data to processing aiming to preserve the confidentiality of individual data. The researchers are solely responsible for the conclusions and inferences drawn upon available data. This work was supported by NSF Grants GEO/OAD-1342869 and ICER/EAR-1829999 as part of the Belmont Forum–Sustainable Urbanization Global Initiative/Food-Water-Energy Nexus theme; and by Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment in support of the Global Freshwater Initiative. The Natural Environment Research Council Belmont Forum provided UK funding (NE/L009285/1). As part of the Belmont Forum, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft provided funding to the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) (KL 2764/1-1) and Leipzig University (GA 506/4-1); and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research provided funding to UFZ (033WU002). The University of Manchester’s Computational Shared Facility is acknowledged. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or other agencies that provided funding or data. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Limited water availability, population growth, and climate change have resulted in freshwater crises in many countries. Jordan's situation is emblematic, compounded by conflict-induced population shocks. Integrating knowledge across hydrology, climatology, agriculture, political science, geography, and economics, we present the Jordan Water Model, a nationwide coupled human-natural-engineered systems model that is used to evaluate Jordan's freshwater security under climate and socioeconomic changes. The complex systems model simulates the trajectory of Jordan's water system, representing dynamic interactions between a hierarchy of actors and the natural and engineered water environment. A multiagent modeling approach enables the quantification of impacts at the level of thousands of representative agents across sectors, allowing for the evaluation of both systemwide and distributional outcomes translated into a suite of water-security metrics (vulnerability, equity, shortage duration, and economic well-being). Model results indicate severe, potentially destabilizing, declines in freshwater security. Per capita water availability decreases by approximately 50% by the end of the century. Without intervening measures, >90% of the low-income household population experiences critical insecurity by the end of the century, receiving <40 L per capita per day. Widening disparity in freshwater use, lengthening shortage durations, and declining economic welfare are prevalent across narratives. To gain a foothold on its freshwater future, Jordan must enact a sweeping portfolio of ambitious interventions that include large-scale desalinization and comprehensive water sector reform, with model results revealing exponential improvements in water security through the coordination of supply- and demand-side measures.

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