Date of this Version



terrestrial water stress, GRACE satellite data, global water storage variability, irrigated agriculture, crop-choice


Access to fresh water is critical for human well-being, economic activity and, in some cases, political stability. Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has been used to monitor variability and trends in total water storage. This makes it possible to associate changes in water storage with both climate variability and large scale water management. Recent research has shown that these trends can be associated, globally, with rainfall, irrigation, and climate model predictions. This research indicates a need for further investigation into specific human predictors of trends in terrestrial water storage. This paper presents the first global scale analysis of GRACE trends focused on national scale socio-economic predictors of terrestrial water storage. We show that rainfall, irrigation, agricultural characteristics, and energy practices all contribute to GRACE trends, and the importance of each differs by country and region. Additionally, this work suggests that other factors such as GDP, population density, urbanization, and forest cover do not explain GRACE trends at a national level. Identifying these key predictors aids in understanding trends in water availability and for informing water management policy in a changing climate.


This is the version of record of Bruss CB, Nateghi R and Zaitchik BF (2019) Explaining National Trends in Terrestrial Water Storage. Front. Environ. Sci. 7:85. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00085. Published by Frontiers Media, it is made available here CC-BY