Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution (2016)


Full Report ENGLISH




Fact sheet ENGLISH


Global trends point to a relative decoupling of water – that is, the rate of water resource use is increasing at a rate slower than that of economic growth. The Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution report provides an independent assessment of technological and policy-relevant tools and approaches that can be used to achieve the decoupling of water resources from economic development while considering environmental and welfare impacts over the full life cycle. To head off a looming water resource crisis, meet global water demand, and sustain economic growth and human wellbeing, global action for decoupling water from economic growth is essential. The report puts forward a package of policy and practical responses based on decoupling strategies to help the forward looking policy-maker in achieving global aspirations for water sustainability.


Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy (2012)


Full report ENGLISH


The world is entering a period of growing water scarcity: by 2030, global demand for fresh water could outstrip supply by over 40% if no changes are made with the way water is used. Fortunately, many of the water problems are, as opposed to bio-physical, economic, social and political in nature and could be addressed within our power through intelligent and effective governance to optimize water use between different sectors and ecosystems and balance our current and future needs, warns this report by UNEP's International Resource Panel.

According to the report, the growing demands placed on our supply of water are not only the result of population growth, but also the way in which our economies develop. Since 1900, humanity's water consumption has grown at twice the rate of population growth, jumping from 600 billion cubic meters in 1900 to 4,500 billion cubic meters in 2010.

Humanity's key challenge over the coming decades will be to meet the water, energy, land and material needs of up to 9 billion people, while keeping climate change, biodiversity loss and health threats within planetary boundaries. Countries at different developmental stages are already facing different challenges, requiring a range of solutions specific to each circumstance. A key factor in determining which solution is most appropriate will be the availability of data and information – how much water is available and how it is being used and the frameworks for assessing the distributional needs of each society.

Reports & Publications

  • Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools

    Land resources are one of nature’s most precious gifts. They feed us and help our societies and economies to thrive. Some 2.5 billion agricultural smallholders worldwide....

  • Food systems and natural resources

    Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years. Food production has more than  doubled, diets have become more varied (and often more energy-intense) satisfying people’s preferences ...

  • Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution

    Global trends point to a relative decoupling of water – that is, the rate of water resource use is increasing at a rate slower than that of economic growth. The Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from...

  • Green energy choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production

    This report represents the first in-depth international comparative assessment of the environmental, health and resource impacts of different low-carbon technologies for electricity production… ...

  • International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment                                                                                                                          

    This latest report from the IRP analyses the role of international trade in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth? ...

  • Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

    This report explores how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales: from the sustainable...

  • Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials

    This report focuses not on the effects of environmental pressure, but on its causes. It describes pressures as resulting from economic activities. These activities are pursued for a purpose, ...

  • City Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions

    This report examines the potential for decoupling at the city level. While the majority of the worlds population now live in cities and cities are where most resource consumption takes place, ...

  • Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy

    Water is an essential resource for virtually all aspects of human enterprise, from agriculture via urbanization to energy and industrial production. Equally, the many uses for water create pressures...

  • Decoupling Natural Resources Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth

    Humankind has witnessed phenomenal economic and social development in the past century. However, there are increasing signs that it has come at a cost to the environment and to the availability of ...

  • Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels

    This report provides an overview of the key problems and perspectives and use of biofuels. It is based on an extensive literature study, taking into account recent major reviews.

  • Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ can Support a Green Economy

    This report advocates placing REDD+ into a larger planning framework that should involve multiple influences (especially those driving deforestation, albeit sometimes inadvertently).

  • Decoupling 2: Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options

    This report was produced by the Decoupling Working Group of the IRP. It explores technological possibilities and opportunities for both developing and developed countries to ...

  • Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis

    The continued increase in the use of metals over the twentieth century has led to a substantial shift from geological resource base to metal stocks in society. This report reviews the relevant literature on this topic.

  • Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report

    In theory, metals can be used over and over again, minimizing the need to mine and process virgin materials and thus saving substantial amounts of energy and water while minimizing environmental ...

  • Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles

    This report focuses on the impact of metals on the environment as well as on their life cycle energy use. Currently primary metals production is responsible for 78 % of the total global energy use ...

  • Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure

    A key question that relates to the very broad and intensive use of metals is whether society needs to be concerned about long-term supplies of any or many of them. This is a many-faceted question ...