Global Water Initiative

People value water. Often, however, it is not water itself that we value, but the benefits of water: irrigated agriculture, energy, transportation, recreation. To get these benefits in a water-limited world, we need to focus on using water more effectively. Instead of trying to grow a water resource, we can conserve water for specific uses and get more from the water we already have. We have to evaluate the costs and benefits of water use across multiple sectors and users and create new definitions of water efficiency.

The Global Water Initiative is developing a research infrastructure to identify the many uses of water and how those uses overlap with the type and intensity of water stress; where current and future use will likely affect water stress; and how increasing the effectiveness of water use might reduce water stress. To accomplish these things, GWI will:

  • quantify water productivity around the world in multiple sectors, particularly for food production and industrial use, as well as for energy production and municipal and domestic use
  • identify the major sources of water use in a region as well as sectors that might be experiencing water stress
  • create new metrics of water stress and develop global data sets for use in water resource planning
  • pinpoint trade-offs in water use and identify opportunities for synergy and win-win interventions.

GWI will engage nonacademic partners to identify types of water stress, drivers, trade-offs and synergies of most interest. We will design the research infrastructure to provide usable, actionable information. The project lead, in conjunction with project partners, will carry out demonstration projects that will be the core of student engagement.

Project Lead

Kate A. Brauman (, lead scientist, Institute on the Environment