Managing water resources, with geography

Sonoran Desert, MexicoI-Hsien Porter

Despite the UK’s reputation for wet weather, a recent report by the Engineering the Future Alliance claims that the UK imports two-thirds of the water we use. This is because the report includes water used in producing food and goods outside the UK. For example, we may only see the last 250 ml of water required to make a cup of coffee. However, a further 140 litres is embedded in growing, processing and transporting the coffee beans.

As a result, some water-stressed countries use significant proportions of their water resources to produce goods for export to foreign markets. Although this brings in foreign exchange, which is often much needed by developing countries, it adds to growing pressures on water supplies.

Hassan and others (2010) recently published two papers in Geography Compass that examine water use in the Palestinian Territories. In the second paper, they argue that future climate change will reduce available water resources, while growing populations will increase abstraction and reduce water quality.

In the first paper, Hassan et al. examine some of the difficulties in allocating resources fairly. The physical geography of the area means that some areas have different physical accessibility to freshwater than others. However, distributing water resources is complicated by a lack of domestic control over aquifers and rivers, located in neighbouring territories. At the interface of the physical and human, geographers are well placed to explore the complexities of managing water.

View the Read about how the incident affected the local communities so far at BBC News Engineering the Future Alliance report on Global Water Security

Hassan et al. (2010 a) Palestinian Water I: Resources, Allocation and Perception, Geography Compass 4 (2): 118-138

Hassan et al. (2010 b) Palestinian Water II: Climate Change and Land Use, Geography Compass 4 (2): 139-157

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