IWMI Research Report – 156

Global Water Demand Projections: Past, Present and Future.


Amarasinghe, U. A.; Smakhtin, V. 2014. Global water demand projections: past, present and future. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 32p. (IWMI Research Report 156). [doi: 10.5337/2014.212]



A review of global water demand projections (WDPs) show substantial over- or under-estimation. The pre-1990 WDPs, with population as the main driver of change, over-projected current water use by 20 to 130%. The post-1990 WDPs, with sophisticated modeling frameworks, show substantial underestimation under the ‘business-as-usual’ scenarios and are more downward biased under sustainable scenarios. Overall, the value of long-term country-level projections in global WDPs is inadequate for local water resource planning. To increase the accuracy and value of global WDPs, future WDPs should take into account the spatial variation and influence of rapidly changing key exogenous and endogenous drivers of water demand in different sectors across and within countries, and provide a sensitivity analysis of projections.

ISBN 978-92-9090-793-0