Liquid Assets

How Demographic Changes and Water Management Policies Affect Freshwater Resources

by Jill Boberg


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Human beings’ powerful effect on the environment is becoming increasingly clear. Demographic factors are commonly recognized as a primary global driver of human-induced environmental change, along with biophysical, economic, sociopolitical, technological, and cultural factors. Concerns about demographic effects on the environment are fueled by demographic trends such as global population growth and the exponential growth of urban areas. These trends have spawned a body of literature regarding the connections between demographic trends and natural resources, such as water, much of which has taken an alarmist view. These reports often limit themselves to looking at the effects of population growth, and treat water supplies as static and population as ever increasing, inexorably leading to a water-availability crisis. This report attempts to present a more holistic view of the interaction between demographic factors and water resources by considering a wider range of demographic variables as well as a set of mitigating factors that influence water availability at the local level. The report focuses primarily on conditions in developing countries, since that is where the forces of demographics and natural resources intersect with the fewest social and economic resources to mediate their impacts.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Freshwater Availability

  • Chapter Three

    Patterns of Demand for Fresh Water

  • Chapter Four

    Demographic Influences on Water Resources

  • Chapter Five

    Influences of Water Resources on Demographic Variables

  • Chapter Six

    Approaches to Sustainable Water Management

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions: The Water Crisis Revisited

The research described in this report was supported by the Compton Foundation and conducted by the Population Matters project within RAND Labor and Population.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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