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The need for green and atmospheric water governance

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Abstract A review of the literature on water governance reveals that most studies focus on blue water governance; while there is some literature on green and atmospheric water, explicit literature on how to govern green and atmospheric water is lacking. Hence, this paper addresses the question: What are the arguments for governing green and atmospheric water? In order to address this question, we have undertaken a scoping analysis of the literature on green and atmospheric water. We conclude that water governance must proactively address green and atmospheric water since: (a) blue water represents only a part of the available fresh water; (b) blue river basins represent only a subset of the wider systemic nature of water; (c) land use change has significant impacts on various water flows, which all may need to be governed; (d) climate variability and change influences blue, green, and atmospheric water availability; (e) an understanding of the socio‐ecological uses of the different colors of water is critical for a more optimal and legitimate governance of water; (f) new water technologies make it increasingly possible to modify the use of green and atmospheric water; and (g) global trade infrastructures pressurize local green water resources. Neglecting the need for explicit governance of green and atmospheric water could create new forms of “water grabbing” that would impact water availability beyond the basin scale. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Water Governance Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
Diagram showing nonexhaustive functional properties (direct and indirect) of green, blue, and atmospheric water resources. Source: Adapted and complemented from Rockström et al. (), Hayat and Gupta (), and Falkenmark et al. (). Note that carbon sequestration is both listed as a direct and indirect functional property of green water, as carbon sequestration policies to mitigate climate change offer a financial benefit to countries (direct) and natural ecosystems capture carbon (indirect). Similarly, precipitation is both a direct and indirect atmospheric water use
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(a) The process of terrestrial moisture recycling throughout intact forest systems. Forests trap run‐off and sometimes reach groundwater with their root system. The water that is evaporated is released to the atmosphere in a more spatially and temporally homogenous manner. The atmospheric water subsequently reprecipitates and can be used to support further vegetation growth. On average, 61% of the precipitation on land derives from terrestrial green water flow. (b) The process of (reduced) terrestrial moisture recycling throughout deforested lands. Water run‐off is not captured by vegetation, increasing the relative surface run‐off toward the ocean. The global annual average of 5–6% reduction of green water flow probably underestimates the local effects of land use change green water flow, as the presented average also includes local increases in green water flow, for example due to downstream increases in irrigated agriculture facilitated by the higher runoff rates. Source: Estimations are based on Sheil () and Sterling et al. (2013)
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Conceptual diagram showing the systemic nature of water, intrinsically linked to land use, including blue, green, and atmospheric water storages and flows. The dotted line connecting green and blue water storage represents the continuous partitioning process that can take place in the river basin; the red line indicates extraction of surface water for irrigated agriculture and direct extraction of atmospheric water via water generators and solar geo‐engineering (see Section 3.6)
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Flowchart for average global annual green and blue water flows and storage on the terrestrial surface. Source: Flow estimations are based on Rockström and Gordon (), Rockström, Lannerstad, and Falkenmark (), Rost et al. (), Hoekstra and Mekonnen (), Wang‐Erlandsson et al. (), and Sheil ()
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Bibliometric network showing the most frequently used words in green water literature. The figure shows a network visualization of full counting (threshold = 5, relevance score = 100) of 499 selected articles on “Green Water” (figure made with VOSviewer, )
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Arguments in favor of explicitly governing green and atmospheric water (inner ring) and the associated implications for water governance (outer ring)
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Papers covering green water, atmospheric water and water governance, water policy, and water law. There has been increasing academic research that explicitly addresses water governance (1,671 references), water policy (2,803 references), and water law (1,003 references), in the period from 2000 to 2018. The literature covering green and atmospheric water is also increasing, although green water and atmospheric water governance remain absent in the literature (both return 0 search results). Search criteria were based on the explicit use of terms (e.g., “green water governance” or “governance of green water”) in the title, abstract and keywords. Source: Scopus (Scopus www.scopus.com, May 21, 2019)
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Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
Human Water > Water Governance

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