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in corresponding natural ecosystems.

It in-
Human Appropriation of Renewable Fresh Water cludes, for example, cropland, grazing lanit,
and trees harvested for f~lelwoodand timber.
Sandra L. Postel, Gretchen C. Daily, Paul R. Ehrlich* Vitousek et al. estimate that co-opted terres-
trial N P P is 40.6 billio11 metric tons, or more
Humanity now uses 26 percent of total terrestrial evapotranspiration and 54 percent of than 30% of total N P P (Table 1).
runoff that is geographically and temporally accessible. Increased use of evapotranspi- T o arrive a t a global estimate of t h e
ration will confer minimal benefits globally because most land suitable for rain-fed ag- average volume of E T required to produce a
riculture is already in production. New dam construction could increase accessible runoff unit of biomass, we divided total terrestrial
by about 10 percent over the next 30 years, whereas population is projected to increase N P P of 132 billion metric tons per year (8)
by more than 45 percent during that period. by the global terrestrial annual E T estimate
above, yielding 1.9 kg of biomass per t o n of
ET, or about 2 g of biomass per kilogram (or
liter) of water (9). W e t h e n applied this
U n l i k e other important commodities such rived from interpolation of climatic, vege- global average to t h e calculated co-opted
as oil, copper, o r wheat, fresh water has n o tation. and soil information for different N P P (Table I ) , maki11g two aitjustments.
substitutes for most of its uses. It is also geographic zones. T h e methoits are inher- Approsilnately 16% of t h e world's cropla11d
impractical to transport the large quantities ently imprecise; estimates of annual runoff is irrigated to supplemellt i n situ rainfall
of water needed in agriculture and industry range from 33,500 klni to 47,000 klni (5). (10). T o avoid double counting, we sub-
more t h a n several hundred kilometers ( I ) . W e use t h e esti~natesof L'Vovich et al. (6), tracted from our estimate of E T o n cultivat-
Fresh water is now scarce in lnanv, r e ~ i o ~of
ls L>
which yield runoff values near t h e ~ n i d d l eof ed land (Table 1 ) t h e share provided by
t h e world, resulting in severe ecological this range (Fig. 2 ) . irrigation water, -2000 k ~ n ~ / ~ eW a re . also
degradation, limits o n agricultural and in- Transniration is t h e u ~ t a k eof moisture assume that half of t h e ET associated with
dustrial production, threats to human by plants and its release back into t h e at- lawns, parks, alld other h u m a ~ ~ - o c c u ~ i e d
health, and increased potential for interna- mosphere. O n a large scale, it is difficult to areas is supplied by irrigation; thus t h e total
tional co~lflict12,, 3).
, estimate transpiration separately from evap- E T co-opted is -18,200 k1n3. This repre-
I n this report, we estimate how much of oration; hence the joint term. Evapotrans- sents 26% (18,200 km3/69,600km') of total
Earth's renewable fresh water is realistically piration represents the water supply for all terrestrial ET. T h e remaining 74% must
accessible t o humanity; what portion of this 11011irrigated vegetation, including forests meet the water needs of all other land-based
accessible supply humarlity now uses direct- and woodlands, and rain-fed species and natural communities.
lv, diverts into human-dominated svstems. crons. Runoff is t h e source for all h u m a n W e adjusted total runoff (40,700 k m 3 )
dr appropriates; and by how much h u m a n diversions or withdrawals of water for irri- for geographic and temporal i ~ ~ a c c e s s i b i l i t ~
access to fresh water is likely to expand over gated agriculture, industry, and municipali- t o estimate t h e portion that is realistically
t h e next 3 0 vears. O n that basis, we derive ties, as well as for a wide varietv of instream available for h u m a n use; we call this acces-
a n indicator of Earth's carrying capacity, as water uses, i ~ l c l u d i ~ lthe
g maintenance of sible runoff ( A R ) . T h e distribution of global
well as a measure of the sustainability of aquatic life (for example, fisheries), naviga- runoff among t h e continents is highly LIII-
current water trends. tion, t h e dilution of pollutants, and the even and correspo~ldspoorly to t h e distri-
Fresh water co~lstitutesonly -2.5% of generation of hydroelectric power. bution of world population (Table 2). Asia,
t h e total volulne of water o n Earth, and T o estimate the share of ET appropriated with 60% of world population, contains
two-thirds of this fresh water is locked in by human activity, we started with the Vi- 36% of global runoff. South America, with
glaciers and ice caps (4). Just 0.77% of all tousek et al. (7) calculation of the fraction of -5% of world population, contains 25% of
water (-10,665,000 km3) is held in aqui- terrestrial net primary production (NPP) runoff. Moreover, much of t h e ru~loffin t h e
fers, soil pores, lakes, swamps, rivers, plant that hulna~lity11ow co-opts. Co-opted N P P tropics and high norther11 latitudes is virtu-
life, and the atmosphere ( 4 ) . is material used directlv, bv, humans or useit in ally inaccessible to the h u m a n economy
Only fresh water flowing through t h e human-dominated ecosystems by cornmun1- and is likely to remain so for t h e foreseeable
solar-powered hydrological cycle is renew- ties of orgallisms that are different from those future.
able (Fig. I ) . No~lreple~lishable(fossil)
ground water can be tapped, but such ex-
Table 1. Estimatesof ET appropriated for human-
traction deuletes reserves i n much t h e same dominated land uses. A total of 26.2% of terres-
way as extractions from oil wells do. T h e trial ET is appropriated (18,200 km3/69,600 km3).
terrestrial renewable fresh water supply
(RFWSIc,,,cI)equals precipitation o n land NPP
(P,~,,,),which t h e n subdivides into two ma- co-opted3 ET
jor segments: evapotranspiration from t h e Land type (10 V o o - o p t e d - ; -
land (ETI,,,cI)and ru11off t o t h e sea ( R ) . metric (km3)
tons)
Because ground water and surface water are
Land
often hvdraulicallv connected, we i11clude Cultivated land 15.0 5,500t
soil infiltration ground-water replenish- Grazing land 11.6 5,800
Fig. 1. A simplified depiction of the global hydro-
,+
m e n t as Dart of this runoff comDonent. Forest land 13.6 6,800
Thus, RFWS~,, = Pi ,,,' = ETI',,, R. logical cycle, adapted from Geick (5). Flows are Human-occupied areas 0.4 1OO$
approximate, f a within ranges of estimates in (5), (lawns, parks, golf
Global water balance estunates are de-
and are in cubic kilometers ,Der vear.
, Downward courses, and so forth)
S. L Postel, Global Water Policy Project, 17 Msgr, arrows signify precipitation; upward arrows signify Total appropriated 40.6 18,200
O'Brien Hahwav. Cambrdae. MA 02141-1817. USA. eva~otrans~iration. The horizontal arrow repre- "NPP from intermedate calculation of Vitousek et a/.
G. C ~ a i l q a n d ' ~R.. ~ h r l E h Department
, of ~ i o o g c a l senis the transfer of atmospheric moisture from (7). ;-Assumes 2 g of bomass produced for each liter
Scences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA94305, USA. sea to land and the arrow beow it represents of water evapotranspred :;Adjusts for share of ET
'To whom correspondence should be addressed. runoff from land to sea requirement met through irrigation.

SCIENCE VOL. 271 9 FEBRUARY 1996


T h e Amazon River accounts for 15% of many northern) rivers that divided between base and flood flow i n t h e
global runoff (1 1 ) . It is currently accessible, have verv, large " flows relative to t h e h u m a n same proportion that total runoff IS, we
however, to -25 ~llillion people (12)- population size and water needs of their t h e n reduced t h e esti~nateof total base flow
0.4% of world population-and n o masslve geographic areas (14). by t h e share of it containeit in t h e relnote
expansion of irrigation is likely that would W e next adlusted for telnuoral inacces- rivers, 2100 km' (0.27 x 7774 km'), lead-
warrailt major ~ ~ l v e r s i o nfrom
s it. W e thus sibility. Irrigated agriculture, industry, and ing to a n accessible base flow of 9000 km'
co~lsider95% of its flow inaccessible. T h e h o ~ ~ s e h o l drequire
s that water be supplied (11,100 - 2100). Addition to this of t h e
Zalre-Congo ranks second in global runoff when alld where it is needed. This degree of estimated 3500 k1n3 of runoff regulated by
(3.5% of the total) (11) and supports control over runoff is n o t easy t o achieve. existi~lg reservoirs yields a n estimate of
-1.3?h of worlit (12). W e judge Approxilnately 11,100 klni of global runoff present total A R of 12,500 km3lyear.
half of its flow to be inaccessible for pur- (-27% of t h e total) is renewable W e next estinlated what portion of AR
poses of irrigation anit initi~strialand mu- water and base river flow (6). As long as humanity now uses. Three categories of wa-
nlcipal use over t h e next 3 0 years. extraction does not exceed renlenishment. ter use are (i) withdrawals or abstractions,
T h e final subtraction is for t h e relnote these sources c a n provide a reliable renew- which represent water r e ~ n o v e dfrom rivers,
rivers of North America and Eurasia, 55 of able supply. T h e remaining runoff, -29,600 lakes, and aquifers for hulnan activities
which have n o d a ~ n so n their lnain chan- km3, is much harder to capture, because (also k n o ~ v nas water demand or water use);
nels ( 1 3). Most of this river flow is in tundra most of it is flood water. In Asia, for in- (ii) c o n s ~ ~ m p t i owhich
n, refers to withdraw-
and taiga biomes that are relnote from pop- stance, 80% of runoff occurs from May to als that are not available for a second or
ulation centers. T h e combined average an- October ( 4 , 15). Capturing flood runoff third use; and (iii) h u m a n instreall1 flow
nual flow of these northern untapped rivers generally requires the construction of dams. needs. Together, withdrawals and instream
is 1815 k ~ n ' / ~ e a and
r , we subtract 95% of it. T h e present storage capacity of large dams uses provide a measure of h u m a n appropri-
Together, t h e inaccessible remote flows collectively totals 5500 km', of which 3500 ation of runoff, and we estimate them sep-
of the Amazon, Zaire-Congo, and northern- k m 3 is actively used in t h e regulation of arately here.
tier undeveloped rivers anlount to 7774 km' river runoff ( 6 , 16). Agriculture uses by far t h e [nost A R
per year (Table 3 ) , or 19% of total annual Adding together the base flow and t h e worldwide. W e estimated agricultural water
runoff. This leaves -32,900 km' geograph- surface runoff controlled bv danls gives a n withdrawals by multiplying a n average wa-
ically accessible. O u r esti~nateis conserva- estimate of t h e total stable'flow. i s s u n l i n g ter application rate of 12,000 m3/ha (17) by
tive hecause we made n o subtractions for that t h e geographically accessible runoff is t h e 1990 esti~nateof 240 ~llillionhectares of
world irrigated area (10). This yields a total
agricultural water demand of -2580 km'
(Table 4 ) . T h e ratio of consumption to
withdrawals 17arieswith cli~naticfactors, t h e
crops grown, and irrigation efficiency, and
typically ranges between 5 0 and 80% (4).
W e assume that -65% of agricultural water
Total ~vithdrawalsare consumed, for a global total
evapotranspiration
on land
Remote flow of 157G km'.
(7774 km3/year) Industrial water use has leveled off or
(69,600 km3/year)
Uncaptured d e c l ~ n e dIn many wealthier countries, but is
floodwater growlng rap~dlyIn much of the develop~ng
(20,426 km3/year) world (2). Shiklomanov ( 4 ) estinlated that
f
Geographicallyand industrial use is -975 klni globally, incluit-
temporally access~ble ing the ther~noelectricpower in~lustry. In
runoff (AR) contrast to agriculture, only a s~llallshare of
(12,500 km3/year) Lvater used in initustry is consumed; i no st of
it is ~ t i s c h a r ~ eback
d t o t h e environment,

lnstream uses
[2350 km3/year(19%)] Table 2. Share of global runoff and population by
I
continent.

Total Share of Share of


Human appropriation Human appropriation river global global
Region runoff* river POPU-
[ I 8,200 km3/year(26%)] (6780 km3/year (54%)] (km3/ runoff lat~on?
year) (96) (96)

Human Europe 3,240


appropriation of Asla 14.550
accessible RFWS,, Afr~ca 11,320
North and 6.200
[24,980 km3/year (30%)]
Central
Human appropriation Amerca
of total RFWS,,, South America 10,420 25.6 5.5
Australia and 1.970 4.8 0.5
[24,980 km3/year (23%)]
Oceania
Fig. 2. Flow dagram of analysis of human appropriat~onof RFWS,,,,,. The f n a box shows human 40.700 100.0 100.0
appropr~at~on of est~matedaccessible RF\RIS,,,,, to be 30O'o (24,980 km3/82.100 km7 and human +RLI,O~~estimates from (6) i-popuat~onest~mates
appropriaton of total RFWSlai., to be 23% (24,980 km3/1 10.300 km"). from (32)

786 SCIENCE \ OL 271 9 FEIIRUrlRk 1996


Table 3. Estimates of inaccess~blerunoff of se- this rate t o t h e 1990 population yields a next 3 0 years. If average reservoir capacity
lected remote rlvers. d ~ l u t ~ oreiluirement
n of -4700 km3. If per dam rernai~lst h e same as in the period
50% of m ~ ~ n ~ c i panii a l iniiustrial waste from 1950 to 1985, as well as the proportion
Remote flow globally receives a t least secondary treat- that is dead storage or otherwise unavail-
R~verbasin or region
(kmyyear)
m e n t before il~scharge( 2 0 ) , t h e n t h e in- able for water supply, -1200 km3 would be
Amazon* (95% of total flow) 5387 stream flow requirement is 2350 k ~ n ~ / ~ e a r aiided . to the accessible supply circa (ca.)
Zaire-Congo* (50% of total) 662 I n actuality, some iiilution is accom- 2025 (28). Addition of this to existing ac-
Remote undammed northern plished by flooii flows rather t h a n hy A R , tlve storage capacity of 3500 km3 yields a
rivers-; (950f0of totals) anii some a i i d ~ t i o n a rollution
l comes from total of 4700 krn3 ca. 2025. Combining t h ~ s
North Amerca 979
disperseii (such as agricultural) sources, with the accessible base flow (9000 km3)
Eurasia 746
Total inaccessible remote 7774 but because we are using t h e dilution re- gives a n A R ca. 2025 of 13,700 km3iyear
runoff quirement as a proxy for i~lstreanl uses 129).
, ,

generally, we made n o aiijustments for If average per capita water delnanii re-
'Amazon and Zaire-Congo runoff from (11). -i North-
ern rivers from (73). these (21 ). nlaills the same in 2025 as a t present [ ~ v h ~ c h
Overall, we estinlate that -18% of A R is conservative, because withiirawals per
(2285 km3/12,500 km3) is consu~ned capita increased nearly 509'0 between 1950
although it is often polluteid. S o ~ u e9%-or directly for h u m a n purposes. Withdrawals anii 1990 ( 2 ) ] , global water dernand ca.
-90 km3-of industrial water a~ithdraa.als from rivers, streams, and aquifers combined 2025 ~ v o ~ total ~ l d -6400 km3/year. Further,
are consumed. with lnstream flow reiluire~nentstotal 6780 ~f instream flow needs for pollution dilution
M ~ ~ n i c i p a use
l varies greatly among km', w h ~ c h suggests that a n aiiiiitio~~al increase 111 iiirect proportion to population,
countries anii regions. Shiklomanov ( 4 ) ac- 36%-for a total of 54% of A R (6780 these woulii total -3430 km3/year ca. 2025,
counteid separately for urban anil rural in- km3/12,500 km3-1s c ~ ~ r r e n t appropriateii ly for a total h u m a n appropriation ca. 2025 of
h a h ~ t a n t su, s ~ n gcountry-level iiata o n idem- for h u m a n purposes. W e estimate that hu- -9830 km3iyear, or >70% of e s t ~ m a t e dA R
ographic characteristics and water use. HIS man use of E T and runoff constitutes 30% ca. 2025.
estimated w o r l d a ~ ~ dmunicipal
e use is 300 of the total access~hleRFLYIS [(18,200 k m ' W e ignore the poss~bility that, during
knli per year, of which -50 k m i (or -179j1) + 6780 km3)/(69,600km' + 12,500 km3)]. the next few decades, runoff patterns might
is consumed. This is conservative, because it a s s ~ ~ m that es be altered substantially by temperature in-
In certain geograph~creglons, reservoir all E T is accessible ( 2 2 ) . Comparison of creases and nrecinitation shifts associateii
A A

losses to evaporation c o n s t i t ~ ~ tae suhstan- 11~1manuse wit11 the total unadjusted RFWS with the buildup of greenhouse gases (30).
t ~ a lshare of total runoff (18). W e assume ~ ~ l d i c a t ethat
s Homo snpiens is co-opting This, in turn, could alter iiam r e a ~ ~ l r e m e n t s
that a n average of 5% of the gross storage -23% of this life-support resource (18,200 and reservoir storage anii thus A R . G ~ v e n
capacity of reserl~oirsa ~ o r l d a ~ i d(5500
e km') kmi + 6780 km3/110,100 km'). the possible ~nonlineariries in the climatic
is lost to eva~orat1o1-1, or 275 km3/vear.
, , How much c a n A R be e x ~ ~ e c t eto d In- system, our ca. 2025 A R estimate may be
I n s t r e a ~ n f l o ~uses
~ incluiie mainte- crease during the next three idecaides? T h e optimistic.
n a n c e of navigation paths, water quality, principal means of expallding A R 1s to cap- T h e aquatic environment is alreaiiy
rlver deltas, fisheries, wildlife, riparian ture anii store more flood runoff or to ile- showing signs of degraiiation and decline,
\,egetation, other aquatic hiodivers~ty,and salinate seawater. Exotic o p t ~ o n s ,such as part~cularlybecause of dam construction,
r e c r e a t ~ o n a l opportun~ties. Because in- towing icebergs, are unl~kelyto yield appre- rlver diversions, heavy pollution loads, and
stream r e c l ~ ~ i r e ~ n e nvary
t s geographically ciable iluantities of water o n a global basis other habitat changes ( 2 7 , 31 ). Substant~al-
a n d seasonally, we useid pollution iiilution 111 the next 3 0 years. ly higher levels of human appropriation of
as a global proxy and assumeii t h a t t h e D e s a l ~ ~ l a t i o na ,~ h ~ csuppl~es
h -0.1%1 of A R could result In a severe falter~ng of
dilution reiluirement is sufficient to meet world water use (23), is a n expensive op- aquatic ecosystem services, including hroad
o t h e r Instream needs as well. A n often tlon, largely because ~t is energy-intensive. d e c ~ m a t i o nof fish populations and t h e ex-
~ ~ s edilution
d factor for assesslllg waste T h e theoretical m ~ n ~ m u energy m require- tinction of numerous beneficial species.
absorption capaclty is 28.3 l ~ t e r sper sec- lnent to relilove salt fro111 water IS 2.8 mil- Greater invest~nentsIn pollution preven-
o ~ per ~ d 1000 p o p u l a t ~ o n( 1 9 ) . Applying lion joules per cubic meter, but even the t1o11 a ~ o u l dfree up A R to meet rising hu-
best desalination plants now operating use man water needs while safeguarding ecolog-
30 times this alnount ( 2 4 ) . T e c h ~ ~ o l o g i c a l ical f ~ ~ n c t i o n sLikewise,
. greater e f f i c ~ e n c ~
Table 4. Estimated global water use and con
sumpton, by sector. ca. 1990. improve~nents 1n1g11t reduce energy neeids of water use, cha~lgesin agricultural crop-
to 10 times the theoretical minimum (24), p i ~ l gpatterns, anii t h e removal of marginal
Con- hut this IS still a s ~ l h s t a n t ~ energy
al require- laniis from irr~gationcoulii help slo~vt h e
Use ment. For the foreseeable future, ilesalina- g r o a ~ t hof h ~ l m a nappropriation of A R .
Sector (krn3/ SumPtlon tion is likelv to c o n t i n ~ ~toe he useLi L7runar-
(km3/
year)
year) ily to meet drinking water neeiis 111 water- REFERENCES AND NOTES
scarce, energy-rich nations.
Agr~culture* 2880 1870
Industly-i 975 90 T h e c r e a t i o ~ of
l new reservoirs will con- 1. A relatively small volume of fresh waters transported
tinue to expanii A R but at a slower rate. longer distances by tanker to supply drinking water
Municipalties-i 300 50 to water-scarce areas
Resenlo~rlosses:!: 275 275 Worliim.ide, a n a\.erage of 885 large dams 2. S. Postel, Lasi Oasis, Faclng i;l1aierScarc1iy (Norton,
Subtotal 4430 2285 (those a t least 15 m high) were constructeil New York, '992).
lnstream flow needs 2350 0 per year hetween 1950 anid the miid-1980s 3 P. H Gleick, Int. Secur. 18, 79 (summer 1993), N
Total 6780 2285 Myers, Dlinnate Secur1tY,.The Environmenial Bas6 of
( 2 5 ) . A t present, n o lnore than -500 large Pol~i~cal Stablllty, (Norton, New York, 1993).
Total as a percent 54% 18%
of AR (12,500 km;) clams are being comL~letedeach year ( 2 6 , 4. I. A Stiiklomanov, in Watei In Cilsis: A Guide to the
27), and we woiild expect this to drop fur- lV!/oi/d's Fresh ln,/atei Resouices, P. H Gleick, Ed.
'Assumes average applied water use of 12,000 m3iha (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, :993), pp. 13-24.
ther because of rising econo~llic.s o c i ~ l a11il .
and consumption equal to -65% of witiidrawals. 5. P. H. GleicK, Ed , Water in Cnss: A Guide to il7e
i Estimates are fioin (4). :Assumes evaporation loss e ~ l v ~ r o n m e n t acosts
l ( 2 ) . W e assunled a n lV!/oi/d'sFresh Watei Resouices (Oxford Unv. Press.
a l596 of gross reservoir storage capacity.
e q ~ ~to average of 350 new dams per year for t h e New York, 1993).

SCIENCE * VOL. 271 9 FEBRU.%RY 1996


6. M. I. L'Vov~cheta1 , In The Earth as Transformed by, Action, B. L Turner et a/., Eds. (Cambr~dgeUn~v dams are currently beng completed at an average
Human Action, B. L. Turner et a/., Eds. (Cambr~dge Press, Cambr~dge,1990), pp. 253-269. rate of 500 per year, or 56% of the rate of the perod
Univ. Press, Cambr~dge,1990), pp 235-252 20. Even in the countries of the Organzatlon for Eco- from 1950 to 1986.
7 P. M. Vitousek. P. R. Ehrlich, A. H. Ehrl~ch,P A nomic Cooperation and Development, domestic 28. Because -85% of ex~stinglarge dams were bu~lt
Matson, Bioscience 36, 368 (1986). wastewater treatment IS estimated to cover only snce mid-century (25), this calculation assumes that
8 G. L. Ajtay, P Ketner, P. Duvgneaud, In m e Global -60% of the population [A. K. Biswas. h'aterlnt. 17. 8596 of total existing storage capacity was con-
Caibon Cycle, B. Bolin. E. T. Degens, S Kempe, P. 68 (February 1992)], nformatlon for developing structed since then, or 4675 km3 (5500 km3 x 0.85).
Ketner, Eds ( W e y . New York. 1979). pp 129-1 82. countries is sparse, but treatment coverage is cer- With the assumpton that 40% as many dams would
9. Our global estmate conforms well to values derived t a n y far lower. Moreover, few regons control for be constructed between 1990 and 2025 as between
from small-scale field studes w t h crops [B. A. Stew- farm runoff and other dispersed pollut~onsources 1950 and 1985, and that capacity per dam remans
art, J. T Mus~ck,D, A. Dusek, Agron. J. 75. 629 that add substantal quant~tiesof sedment, pesti- constant, 1870 km3 (4675 km3 x 0.40) of capacty
(1983); Held Response to Water (U N. Food and cides, and fertizers to water bodies. would be added by ca 2025, of w h c h 1190 km3
Agriculture Organization, Rome, 1979); Z. Z~xi,B A. 21. Even f wastewater treatment coverage should be- would be live storage for water supply
Stewart, F. Xiangjun, field Crops Res. 36. 175 come nearly un~versal,substant~alnstream flows 29. Even as dam construction IS adding to the total stable
(1994)l. would still be required to ma~ntainfsheries, support runoff, other human activit~esare reducing it Defores-
10. 1990 Pioduction Yearbook (UN. Food and Agrcul- recreat~onaldemands, and satisfy other instream taton and the paving over of aquifer recharge areas
ture Organization, Rome, 1991), w ~ t hadjustments needs. For example, Cal~forn~a's Instream envron- often reduce ra~nwater~nfiltrat~on, thereby reducing
for Unted States and Taiwan based on data from mental water requirements (after omlsslon of the base flow and lncreasng surface flood runoff. More
U.S. Department of Agr~culture. north coast hydrolog~cregon, w h c h conta~nssever- Important giobaly, many reservoirs are loslng act~ve
11. E. Czaya. Rivers of the World (Van Nostrand Ren- al w ~ l dand scenc rlvers and thus may not be indc- storage capac~tyfaster than or~g~nally est~matedbe-
hold, New York, 1981). at~veof instream needs more narrowly def~ned)equal cause of rapd station from deforestat~on,so11ero-
12. Populat~on est~mates from C. Haub and M. 22% of average annual runoff [Cal~forniaWater Plan s~on,and generally poor watershed management.
Yanaglshta, Population Reference Bureau (personal Update (Cal~forn~a Department of Water Resources, The Nzamsagar reservor In India, for Instance, lost
commun~cat~on, Wash~ngton,DC, January 1995). Sacramento, CA, 1994). more than 60% of t s capaclty over 40 years [M. New-
13. M. Dynesius and C N~isson,Science 266, 753 22. We d d not cons~der~tfeas~bleto estmate accessbe son, Land, Water and Development: River Basin Sys-
(1994). ET In a manner comparable to our estmate of AR. To tems and Their Sustainable Management (Routedge,
14. We do not Include In our est~mateof remote northern be conseivat~ve,we therefore assumed all terrestral London, 19921. Lackng global estmates, we make
river flows a large number of rlvers that have one or ET to be access~ble. no subtract~onfor these losses.
two dams (typ~callyfor hydropower) on the~rm a n 23 Wangnck Consult~ng,1990 IDA Worldln/~deDesalt- 30. P. E. Waggoner, Ed., Cl~mateChangeand U.S. Wa-
channels but have flows vastly ~nexcess of water ing Plants Inventory (Internatonal Desanaton Asso- ter Resources (W~ley,New York, 1990).
supply needs ~nthe reglon, ncludlng, for example, ciat~on.Englewood, NJ, 1990). 31. Nat~onalResearch Councl, Restoration of Aquatic
the Ob and Lena rlvers of Sberlan Russa, w ~ t ha 24. P. H. Gle~ck,Annu. Rev. Energy Envlron. 19, 267 Ecosystems (Nat~onaAcademy Press, Washington,
combined flow of 935 km". The amb~t~ous Sov~et (1994). DC, 1992).
scheme to d~vertwater from the Ob to the Ara Sea 25, J. A. Veltrop, in Water for Sustainable Development 32. 1994 World Population Data Sheet (Popuaton Ref-
basln would n t a l l y have lnvolved 25 km3/year, just ln the Twenty-first Century, A K. B~swas,M. Jellall, erence Bureau, Wash~ngton,DC, 1994).
6% of the Ob's annual average flow. L~kew~se, a G. E. Stout, Eds. (Oxford Unv. Press. Oxford, 1992), 33. We gratefully acknowledge comments from W Fa-
proposal to s h ~ pwater vla undersea p~pellnefrom pp. 102-1 15. con, P. Gle~ck,R. Naylor, A. V~ckers,P. V~tousek,
southeast Alaska to C a f o r n a lnvolved 5 km3 annu- 26. Status of Dam Construction, 1991 (lnternat~onal and two anonymous reviewers. Supported by a
ally, just under 5% of the combined average annual Commss~onon Large Dams, Parls, 1992), suggests grant from Charles and Nancy Munger, the Wnslow
flow of the Copper and S t k ~ n erlvers, leav~ng95% of that -300 dams are now comm~ssonedeach year, and Henz foundatons, and an anonymous donor.
the~rflow st11remote [Alaskan Water for Cal~forn~a? but these data Include only 64 countr~es.
The Subsea P@eBne Option-Background Paper 27. A P. Cov~ch[ ~ n(5), pp 4G55] lndcates that iarge 28 September 1995; accepted 21 December 1995
(U.S. Off~ceof Technology Assessment, Washng-
ton, DC, 1992)l.
15. Uncaptured flood runoff provdes a varety of human
benefts, n c u d n g support of flood-recesston farmng, Rapid Collapse of Northern
fsheres, and generatlor- of hydroeectrlcty; however,
In these capaclt~es,t s use IS e~therlns~gn~f~cant glo- Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica
bally or does not nvove actual approprlatlon.
16. Theoret~cay,a reservoir could be flied and empt~ed
more than once a year, creatng a greater effect~ve
Helmut Rott, Pedro Skvarca, Thomas Nagler
capac~tyto regulate runoff than the storage capac~ty
alone would ndcate. We know of no estimates of In January 1995, 4200 square kilometers of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctic
thls effectve storage capac~tyother than the state-
ment by K. Mahmood [Resenloir Sedimentat~on:lm- Peninsula, broke away. Radar images from the ERS-I satellite, complemented by field
pact. Extent, andMitigat1on (The World Bank, Wash- observations, showed that the two northernmost sections of the ice shelf fractured and
ngton. DC. 1987)l that the usable reservoir storage disintegrated almost completely within a few days. This breakup followed a period of
capacity "IS nearly used once every year." We there-
fore make no adjustments to the estmated 3500
steady retreat that coincided with a regional trend of atmospheric warming. The obser-
km3 of capacity usable for runoff storage on an av- vations imply that after an ice shelf retreats beyond a critical limit, it may collapse rapidly
erage annual bass. as a result of perturbated mass balance.
17. This IS a somewhat higher rate than is implied by
Shikiomanov's estimates (4),which suggest rates of
10,700 to 11,000 m3/ha, We arrived at our figure
after examning data for California that suggest an
average water applcation rate on that state's irrigat- I c e shelves cover 11% of the total area of of either (3).T h e 0C summer isotherm has
ed area of -10,300 m3 ha [Californ~aWater Plan
Update (California Department of Water Resources, Antarctica ( 1 ) and play an i ~ n p o r t a ~role
lt been taken as the clilnatic lilnit for the
Sacramento, CA, 1994), v o I], Because the aver- in the Inass budget and dynamics of the existence of ice shelves along the \vest coast
age irrigation efficiency in C a ~ f o r n as reported to be Antarctic Ice Sheet. Most of the ice that of the Antarctic Peninsula (4). Between
70%, whch IS substantially hgher than the worid-
wide average [S. Postel, in (5), pp. 56-66], we be- has accunlulated over the grounded parts of 1966 and 1989, the Wordle Ice Shelf (Fig.
lleve that 12,000 +/ha 1s closer to the actual global Antarctica is discharged to ice shelves, 1 ) decreased from -2000 to 700 krn', prob-
average applicat~onrate. Moreover, the California where it is lost as icehergs along the seaward ably as a result of regional at~nospheric
figures account only for on-farm water applcatons
and do not n c u d e the porton of d~versionslost to edges as well as by hasal melting (2). Be- \varming (5). Here, we report o n the recent
seepage or evaporation between reservoirs and cause ice shel1:es are exposed to both atmo- disintegration of the northern Larsen Ice
farmers' f~elds. sphere and ocean, thei are sensitive tcj Shelf (LIS).
18. Evaporative losses from Lake Nassar, for example,
chaln~esin the temnerature and circulation T h e LIS exte~ldsalong the eastern side
have averaged 10 km3/year, w h ~ c his equal to 12%
of the Nlle's average annual flow [J. A. Allan, in The of the Antarctic Peninsula from latitude
Nile: SharingA Scarce Resource, P P. Howell and J H Rott and T. Nager, lnsttut fur Meteorologie und Geo- 64' to 74's (Fig. 1). The part of the LIS
A. Alan. Eds. (Cambr~dgeUnv. Press, Cambridge, phys~kder ~ n i v e r s ~ t aInnsbruck,
t lnnra~n5 2 , A-6020 llorth of ~ ~ b ~ ~& , ~~hasl retreated ~ ~ ~ d
1994). pp. 313-3201, Innsbruck. Austr~a.
19. H. E. Schwarz. J. Emel. W. J. D~ckens,P. Rogers, J. P. Skvarca, nstituto Antartco Argentno. Cerr~to1248. " o w l ~but constalltl~since 1940s (67).
Thompson, In The Eariii as Transformed b y Human 1010 Buenos A~res,Argerit~na. T h e retreat accelerated after 1975 and (a),
SCIENCE VOL 271 9 FEBRUARY 1996