The Global Water System Project


The Global Water System Project (GWSP) is a new international research effort which has been launched to promote improved understanding of the role of fresh water in the Earth System through integrated study of its interactions, feedbacks and thresholds. The central tenet of the GWSP is that human-induced changes to the water system are now global in extent, yet we lack an adequate understanding of how the system works and responds to disturbances, and how society can best adapt to rapidly evolving new system states. The work of the GWSP will be based mainly on research done by different research organizations and projects under the umbrella of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).
The Center is one of the partners within this framework and plays a central role since its director, Joseph Alcamo, co-authored the recently published Scientific Framework Document and acts as co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the GWSP.
Furthermore, the emphasis of the water-related work at Center is in close agreement with the planned key activities of the GWSP:

  • To produce consolidated global data sets, e.g., on water applied for irrigation, return flows, groundwater extractions, etc.
  • To carry out comparative regional studies on water availability and water use contributing to global-scale analyses.
  • To apply models for the prediction of responses of the global water system to human manipulation.
  • To initiate integrated model activities with the inclusion of socio-economic aspects of human water use.


The global water availability and water use model WaterGAP, developed and applied at the Center, is considered as one of the principal tools in the scientific framework of GWSP. Therefore, the Center will be actively involved in the future key activities of GWSP through the global modeling efforts, the compilation of global data and maps regarding water resources and the investigations in selected focus regions.