Trade in water and commodities as adaptations to global change


The human capacity for altering the water cycle has been well documented and given the expected change due to population, income growth, biofuels, climate, and associated land use change, there remains great uncertainty in both the degree of increased pressure on land and water resources and in our ability to adapt to these changes. Alleviating regional shortages in water supply can be carried out in a spatial hierarchy through i) direct trade of water between all regions, ii) development of infrastructure to improve water availability within regions (e.g. impounding rivers), iii) via inter-basin hydrological transfer between neighboring regions and, iv) via virtual water trade. These adaptation strategies can be managed via market trade in water and commodities to identify those strategies most likely to be adopted. This work combines the physically-based University of New Hampshire Water Balance Model (WBM) with the macro-scale Purdue University Simplified International Model of agricultural Prices Land use and the Environment (SIMPLE) to explore the interaction of supply and demand for fresh water globally. In this work we use a newly developed grid cell-based version of SIMPLE to achieve a more direct connection between the two modeling paradigms of physically-based models with optimization-driven approaches characteristic of economic models. We explore questions related to the global and regional impact of water scarcity and water surplus on the ability of regions to adapt to future change. Allowing for a variety of adaptation strategies such as direct trade of water and expanding the built water infrastructure, as well as indirect trade in commodities, will reduce overall global water stress and, in some regions, significantly reduce their vulnerability to these future changes.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Hertel, T.W., Prousevitch, A. (2015), Trade in water and commodities as adaptations to global change, Abstract GC32B-02 presented at 2015 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 14-18 Dec.