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Water and economic development: The role of variability and a framework for resilience

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The article advances the hypothesis that the seasonal and inter-annual variability of rainfall is a significant and measurable factor in the economic development of nations. An analysis of global datasets reveals a statistically significant relationship between greater rainfall variability and lower per capita GDP. Having established this correlation, we construct a water resources development index that highlights areas that have the greatest need for storage infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of rainfall variability on water availability for food and basic livelihood. The countries with the most critical infrastructure needs according to this metric are among the poorest in the world, and the majority of them are located in Africa. The importance of securing water availability in these nations increases every day in light of current population growth, economic development, and climate change projections.

Keywords: Climate variability; Infrastructure; Water policy; Water scarcity;  Economic development

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University, NY 2: Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, NY

Publication date: November 1, 2006


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