These tools can assist in better understanding and managing water resources in a number of ways, including the following:
Current physical water resources distribution in space and time
Water resources are fundamentally determined by the water balance: precipitation minus evapotranspiration (i.e. renewable resources). Soil and groundwater moisture stores act as stores whose sustainable use depends upon accessing only renewable stores (i.e. those derived from the current water balance) rather than 'fossil' groundwater. WaterWorld calculates a water balance based on long term climate data, current land cover characteristics, terrain and routed flows for anywhere in the world, see examples, including effects of wind-driven rainfall, fog, snow and ice dynamics and actual evapotranspiration.
Current water scarcity distribution in space and time
Water scarcity is determined by demand as well as supply. WaterWorld calculates agricultural demand (a consumptive use) in its evapotranspiration calculation. The remaining water is available for domestic and industrial uses which are non-consumptive and are calculated on the basis of the distribution of population and per capita water-use. Though this non-consumptive use does not affect the quantity of water available downstream, it does affect the quality of that water and this is modelled in WaterWorld using the human footprint index. See examples for Colombia, Nepal and Madagascar.
Impacts of climate change
WaterWorld provides baseline water resources assessment for the last 50 years but also the means of applying IPCC SRES and IPCC CMIP climate scenarios to understand the impacts of climate change either from single GCMs or from multimodel ensembles, see examples from Peru and Sudan
Impacts of land cover and use change
WaterWorld provides functionality to generate a range of land cover and use scenarios with impacts on water quantity and quality. These can be generated for historical deforestation using terra-i or other deforestation monitoring datasets such as this example from Colombia or this example from the Gran Chaco, Paraguay. WaterWorld also contains a land use change model which can be used to assess the impacts of projected land use given a particular set of policies or interventions (roads, protected areas, incentives), see this example for the Amazon, this example from the Gran Chaco and this example from Borneo.
Impacts of land and water management interventions
Various land and water management interventions can be assessed in WaterWorld including:
Impacts of industrial or extractive activity
Many of these interventions are associated with commercial activity, for example assessment of supply chain impacts, scenarios for agro-industry, mining (see example from Colombia), oil and gas (see example from Ecuador), forestry (see example from Paute, Ecuador and Daule, Ecuador).
Impacts of land conservation and restoration
The water resource impact of conservation mechanisms such as protected area designation, afforestation and land use planning can also be investigated see examples from Paute, Ecuador and Zambia.