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Water 2015, 7(3), 898-917; doi:10.3390/w7030898

Exploring the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem in Spatial Water Assessments: A Case of Water Shortage in Monsoon Asia

Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Tietotie 1E, Espoo 02150, Finland
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Academic Editor: Athanasios Loukas
Received: 4 November 2014 / Revised: 13 January 2015 / Accepted: 27 February 2015 / Published: 3 March 2015
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Abstract

Water shortage (availability per capita) is a key indicator of vulnerability to water scarcity. Spatial datasets enable the assessment of water shortage on multiple scales. The use of river basins and subbasins as analysis and management units is currently commonplace. An important but less acknowledged fact is that spatial assessments are strongly influenced by the choice of the unit of analysis due to the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP). Climate conditions, agricultural activities, and access to groundwater also influence water availability and demand. In this study, a total of 21 different criteria were used to define areal units of analysis, i.e., zonings, for which water shortage was calculated. Focusing on Monsoon Asia, where water scarcity is a pressing problem, we found that zoning had a considerable impact, resulting in up to three-fold differences in the population under high water shortage (<1000 m3/cap/year), ranging from 782 million to 2.11 billion. In most zonings, however, the Indus and Yellow River Basins and northwest parts of India and China are under high water shortage. The study indicates that a multizonal and multiscale analysis is needed to minimize skewed or even misleading information that might be produced when using only one zoning. View Full-Text
Keywords: MAUP; water shortage; spatial analysis; water resources management; environmental assessments; vulnerability assessments; transboundary river basins; Asia MAUP; water shortage; spatial analysis; water resources management; environmental assessments; vulnerability assessments; transboundary river basins; Asia
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Salmivaara, A.; Porkka, M.; Kummu, M.; Keskinen, M.; Guillaume, J.H.A.; Varis, O. Exploring the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem in Spatial Water Assessments: A Case of Water Shortage in Monsoon Asia. Water 2015, 7, 898-917.

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