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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 10 | Copyright

Special issue: HESS Opinions

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5551-5558, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-5551-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Opinion article 25 Oct 2018

Opinion article | 25 Oct 2018

HESS Opinions: How should a future water census address consumptive use? (And where can we substitute withdrawal data while we wait?)

Benjamin L. Ruddell Benjamin L. Ruddell
  • School of Informatics Computing and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Abstract. Despite the centrality of the water balance equation to hydrology and water resources, in 2018 we still lack adequate empirical observations of consumptive use of water by humans and their economy. It is therefore worth considering what we can do with the withdrawal-based water use data we already possess, and what future water census measurements would be required to more accurately quantify consumptive use for the most common mesoscale use cases. The limitations of the currently applied simple net consumptive use (SNCU) assumptions are discussed for several common use cases. Fortunately, several applied water management, economics, and policy questions can be sufficiently addressed using currently available withdrawal numbers in place of water consumption numbers. This discussion clarifies the broad requirements for an improved stock and flow census-scale data model for consumptive water use. While we are waiting for the eventual arrival of a more sophisticated water census, the withdrawal data we already possess are sufficient for some of our most important scientific and applied purposes.

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We now lack sufficient empirical observations of consumptive use of water by humans and their economy, so it is worth considering what we can do with the withdrawal-based water use data we already possess. Fortunately, a wide range of applied water management and policy questions can be addressed using currently available withdrawal data. This discussion identifies important data collection problems and argues that the withdrawal data we already possess are adequate for some important purposes.
We now lack sufficient empirical observations of consumptive use of water by humans and their...
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