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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00085

Explaining National Trends in Terrestrial Water Storage

 C B. Bruss1, Roshanak Nateghi2* and Benjamin F. Zaitchik3
  • 1Capital One (United States), United States
  • 2Purdue University, United States
  • 3Johns Hopkins University, United States

Access to fresh water is critical for human well-being, economic activity and, in some cases, political stability. Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has been used to monitor variability and trends in total water storage. This makes it possible to associate changes in water storage with both climate variability and large scale water management. Recent research has shown that these trends can be associated, globally, with rainfall, irrigation and climate model predictions. This research indicates a need for further investigation into specific human predictors of trends in terrestrial water storage. This paper presents the first global scale analysis of GRACE trends focused on national scale socio-economic predictors of terrestrial water storage. We show that rainfall, irrigation, agricultural characteristics and energy practices all contribute to GRACE trends, and the importance of each differs by country and region. Additionally, this work suggests that other factors such as GDP, population density, urbanization and forest cover do not explain GRACE trends at a national level. Identifying these key predictors aids in understanding trends in water availability and for informing water management policy in a changing climate.

Keywords: Terrestrial water stress, GRACE satellite data, Global water storage variation, Irrigated Agricultrure, Crop choice

Received: 25 Jun 2018; Accepted: 27 May 2019.

Edited by:

Jill A. Engel-Cox, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DOE), United States

Reviewed by:

Nitin Kaushal, World Wide Fund for Nature, India
Sushel Unninayar, Morgan State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Bruss, Nateghi and Zaitchik. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Roshanak Nateghi, Purdue University, West Lafayette, 47907, Indiana, United States, rnateghi@purdue.edu