The Global Water System Project (GWSP) seeks to answer two fundamental and multi-faceted questions: How are humans changing the global water cycle, the associated biogeochemical cycles, and the biological components of the global water system? and What are the social feedbacks arising from these changes?
Research is needed to:
The agenda for the GWSP will incorporate impact studies on water governance, land cover change, major diversions, climate change and nutrient and sediment flows. Linkages at different scales and the legacy of past human impacts will also be included. For example, researchers will undertake a comprehensive study to compare the requirements of human society with that of aquatic ecosystems, as well as studying the ecosystem services provided by freshwater.
The GWSP will undertake key cross-cutting activities such as generating an information database on the global water system, facilitating a discourse on water between the social and natural sciences, and developing models to define scenarios for the global water system.
Over the past two years, a series of meetings has provided the rationale and defined the scope for the Global Water System Project. These activities culminated in a draft scientific framework that was devised by a committee of 12 international experts chaired by Prof. Dr. Joseph Alcamo, University of Kassel. In May 2004, the Chairs and Directors of the four Global Change programmes endorsed the Scientific Framework document and appointed a Scientific Steering Committee. The Scientific Framework will be finalised by the end of 2004 and the project will be in full swing.
One of the important consequences of the rapid growth of global environmental science has been our growing awareness of the linkages, interconnections and interdependencies in the global water cycle. It is clear that human-induced changes to the global water system are now globally significant and are being modified without adequate understanding of how the system works.
While the global water system is an essential aspect of the dynamics of the Earth system, it also plays a central role in human society. It can be argued that the global water system is a product of the increasingly tight economic, social, technological and other couplings among society we term 'globalisation'. As an example, the water policies carried out by large international organisations have direct impacts on the levels of water abstraction and water diversions worldwide, and hence on the level of wastewater discharges, hydrologic regimes, the biogeochemistry of waters, and the state of aquatic ecosystems.
Therefore the major components of the global water system that require further study are:
Dr. Lydia Dümenil Gates
Executive Officer, International Project Office (IPO)
Tel: + 49 228 73 61 87