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Global water use may outstrip supply by mid-century

Population growth could cause global demand for water to outpace supply by mid-century if current levels of consumption continue. But it wouldn't be the first time this has happened, a Duke University study finds. Using a delayed-feedback mathematical model that analyzes historic data to help project future trends, the researchers identified a regularly recurring pattern of global water use in recent centuries. Periods of increased demand for water—often coinciding with population growth or other major demographic and social changes—were followed by periods of rapid innovation of new water technologies that helped end or ease any shortages. Based on this recurring pattern, the model predicts a similar period of innovation could occur in coming decades. "Researchers in other fields have previously used this model to predict earthquakes and other complex processes, including events like the boom and bust of the stock market during financial crises, but this is the first time it's been applied to water use," said Anthony Parolari, postdoctoral research associate in civil and environmental engineering at Duke, who led the new study. "What the model shows us is that there will likely be a new phase of change in the global water supply system by the mid-21st century," Parolari said. "This could take the form of a gradual move toward new policies that encourage a sustainable rate of water use, or it could be a technological advancement that provides a new source of water for us to tap into. There's a range of possibilities," he said. More via Phys.org

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