Marc Bierkens, UYA member Niko Wanders, and National Geographic Society to map global freshwater reserves

Utrecht water and drought experts Marc Bierkens and Utrecht Young Academy member Niko Wanders announced the launch of the World Water Map project, in cooperation with the National Geographic Society. Over the next five years they will be mapping the global water supplies and demands, and identifying 'hotspot' areas where water scarcity is most prevalent.

Niko Wanders
Dr. Niko Wanders (photo: Ed van Rijswijk)

Bierkens and Wanders will not only examine where the current 'hotspots' are located but also why those areas become vulnerable to water scarcity. If we know the why, we can also make better predictions about where and how new hotspots will emerge in the future, for example, in the sub-Sahara and metropolises in Asia, say the researchers.  

Bierkens and Wanders will use the latest techniques, models, and satellite data to expand current datasets and collect new data - providing views into the current state and potential fate of the world’s freshwater supply. For example, they will collect data on different factors affecting freshwater supply, including temperature, quality, and its use in households and in sectors such as agriculture and energy production. The results of the World Water Map project will be made available to policymakers to help inform future freshwater conservation decisions. 

A unique opportunity to merge the power of science, education, and storytelling.

Access to freshwater will be a defining issue for future generations. Understanding its sources and uses and how they change over time is critical to living sustainably on Earth, and is well-aligned with our mission: to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world, says Alex Tait, Geographer at National Geographic Society. Our work with Utrecht University presents a unique opportunity to merge the power of science, education, and storytelling to inspire people to have a more sustainable relationship with freshwater and our planet.

Informed by data and insights from the World Water Map, the National Geographic Society will fund creative and impactful new projects in storytelling, education, and conservation as part of its World Freshwater Initiative. The Initiative will highlight freshwater-related stories from around the world, amplifying diverse stories and storytellers.