A global assessment of transboundary watersheds for potential hydro-political tensions using environmental, political, and economic indicators

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Eric A Sproles1,2, Lucia De Stefano3, Jacob Petersen-Perlman2, Jim Eynard2 and Aaron Wolf2, (1)Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas, La Serena, Chile, (2)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, (3)Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Watersheds do not recognize political boundaries. However globally 286 of them extend across international borders. In these basins, transboundary water resources support an interdependent web of environmental, political, and economic systems that can enhance or destabilize a region. We present an integrated global-scale assessment of transboundary watersheds to identify regions more likely to experience hydro-political tensions over the next decade and beyond based upon environmental, political, and economic indicators. We apply NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data to bridge the sparse and inconsistent hydrologic monitoring networks that exist in many regions of the world. GRACE does not distinguish political boundaries, and provides novel insights into terrestrial water storage anomalies across and through a watershed. We combine GRACE measurements of changes in terrestrial water storage with metrics of projected climate change impacts on water variability, the institutional capacity of countries to manage shared water resources, the development of new water infrastructure, gross national income, domestic and international armed conflicts, and disputes over transboundary waters. Our analysis integrates political, economic and environmental metrics as part of the United Nation’s Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme to provide the first global-scale assessment of its type.