Water Futures and Solutions: World Water Scenarios

Water resources are central to development and poverty alleviation. Yet decision makers face many challenges to ensuring their sustainable and equitable use. 

© Michael Pettigrew | Dreamstime.com © Michael Pettigrew | Dreamstime.com

© Michael Pettigrew | Dreamstime.com

A new collaborative IIASA initiative brings state-of-the-art science and decision makers together to develop realistic future scenarios that decision makers can use to identify and prioritize robust options to meet these challenges.

By 2050 there will be an estimated 2 billion more people on the planet. Meeting the needs of those people, and the many who already lack access to clean water, is a huge challenge on an already resource-limited planet. While about 7% of the world’s population has gained access to drinking water during the 13 years since the UN set their Millennium Development Goals, at least a billion still lack access. On top of that, about 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation; 35 million people die each year from water-related diseases; about 2 billion are malnourished; three-quarters of the world’s waste water flows to the environment without treatment; a billion people have no electricity in their homes and a similar number lack clean fuel for heating and cooking. Despite economic and social development efforts, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing.

Water Futures and Solutions: World Water Scenarios, a partnership between IIASA, UNESCO, the World Water Council, the International Water Association, and the Korean Government, aims to provide a scientific basis for responding to these challenges by creating and testing a number of scenarios for future water resources, and bringing together decision makers to discuss a common vision for the future. The initiative will build on UNESCO’s World Water Scenarios, results of which were released in March 2012.

The initiative will build a variety of scenarios on global and regional level, while linking to scenario processes at national and local levels. Scenarios, in contrast to predictions, forecasts, or projections, pull together many factors, or drivers, to determine a range of possible futures. Therefore, the scenarios are developed by decision-makers in water resource management and a number of other sectors and disciplines, experts from both government and the private sector, and other stakeholders representing a broad range of geo-political and social settings. These stakeholder groups will create qualitative scenarios, which data experts and scientists will transform where possible into realistic quantitative output of potential futures, with feedback from the stakeholder groups. These scenarios, augmented with associated methodologies, data sets, information exchange networks, and impact calculators that the initiative will make available in useful formats, can serve as tools that decision-makers can use to make plans, set goals and identify robust options for action. The five-year initiative will integrate UNEP’s ongoing global water quality assessment and results of regional scenarios to provide a full set of robust strategies, policies, technologies and solutions.

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Last edited: 11 October 2018


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Recent WFaS Publication in GMD

MODELING GLOBAL WATER USE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: The Water Futures and Solutions (WFaS) initiative and its approaches.

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