Articles | Volume 21, issue 8
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4169–4193, 2017

Special issue: Observations and modeling of land surface water and energy...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4169–4193, 2017

Review article 23 Aug 2017

Review article | 23 Aug 2017

Human–water interface in hydrological modelling: current status and future directions

Yoshihide Wada1,2, Marc F. P. Bierkens2,3, Ad de Roo2,4, Paul A. Dirmeyer5, James S. Famiglietti6, Naota Hanasaki7, Megan Konar8, Junguo Liu1,9, Hannes Müller Schmied10,11, Taikan Oki12,13, Yadu Pokhrel14, Murugesu Sivapalan8,15, Tara J. Troy16, Albert I. J. M. van Dijk17, Tim van Emmerik18, Marjolein H. J. Van Huijgevoort19, Henny A. J. Van Lanen20, Charles J. Vörösmarty21,22, Niko Wanders2,23, and Howard Wheater24 Yoshihide Wada et al.
  • 1International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Schlossplatz 1, 2361 Laxenburg, Austria
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3Unit Soil and Groundwater Systems, Deltares, Princetonlaan 6, 3584 CB Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 4Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Via Enrico Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra, Italy
  • 5Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
  • 6NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
  • 7National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan
  • 8Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 205 N Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  • 9School of Environmental Science and Engineering, South University of Science and Technology of China, No. 1008, Xueyuan Blvd, Nanshan, Shenzhen, 518055, China
  • 10Institute of Physical Geography, Goethe University, Altenhoeferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 11Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 12Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo, 4-6-1 Komaba, Meguro, Tokyo 153-8505, Japan
  • 13United Nations University, 5 Chome-53-70 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
  • 14Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
  • 15Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Springfield Avenue, Champaign, IL 61801, USA
  • 16Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Lehigh University, 1 West Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18015-3001, USA
  • 17Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University, Linnaeus Way, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
  • 18Water Resources Section, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN Delft, the Netherlands
  • 19Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University, 300 Forrestal Rd, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
  • 20Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 BP Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 21Environmental Sciences Initiative, CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, 85 St Nicholas Terrace, New York, NY 10031, USA
  • 22Civil Engineering Department, The City College of New York, 160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031, USA
  • 23Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, 59 Olden St, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
  • 24Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan, 11 Innovation Blvd, Saskatoon, SK S7N 3H5, Canada

Abstract. Over recent decades, the global population has been rapidly increasing and human activities have altered terrestrial water fluxes to an unprecedented extent. The phenomenal growth of the human footprint has significantly modified hydrological processes in various ways (e.g. irrigation, artificial dams, and water diversion) and at various scales (from a watershed to the globe). During the early 1990s, awareness of the potential for increased water scarcity led to the first detailed global water resource assessments. Shortly thereafter, in order to analyse the human perturbation on terrestrial water resources, the first generation of large-scale hydrological models (LHMs) was produced. However, at this early stage few models considered the interaction between terrestrial water fluxes and human activities, including water use and reservoir regulation, and even fewer models distinguished water use from surface water and groundwater resources. Since the early 2000s, a growing number of LHMs have incorporated human impacts on the hydrological cycle, yet the representation of human activities in hydrological models remains challenging. In this paper we provide a synthesis of progress in the development and application of human impact modelling in LHMs. We highlight a number of key challenges and discuss possible improvements in order to better represent the human–water interface in hydrological models.

Short summary
Rapidly increasing population and human activities have altered terrestrial water fluxes on an unprecedented scale. Awareness of potential water scarcity led to first global water resource assessments; however, few hydrological models considered the interaction between terrestrial water fluxes and human activities. Our contribution highlights the importance of human activities transforming the Earth's water cycle, and how hydrological models can include such influences in an integrated manner.