Urban expansion and its impact on water security: The case of the Paraíba do Sul River Basin, São Paulo, Brazil

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jun 10;720:137509. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137509. Epub 2020 Feb 22.


Increasing demand for water is one of the most challenging problems that human societies face today and has encouraged new studies to examine water security and water management. Seeking to discuss this important issue in the Brazilian context, we analyzed the impacts of urban expansion on water security in a basin located in the most populated region of Brazil. To quantify increased water demand, we combined urban sprawl and regional population increase projections. In this context, our study contributes to discussions on water security by addressing the importance of integration between water and urban planning. Simulations indicate good performance in reproducing actual water system conditions. The finding demonstrates that urban expansion in the region is mainly driven by road proximity. Urban occupation is projected to increase in 170% by 2050, increasing water demands for domestic use in 38%. Results indicate the feasibility of including landscape and socioeconomic constrains in order to obtain potential domestic water demand scenarios by using land use and land cover change modelling to assess urban expansion and population growth. For the study region, our findings suggest that although urban sprawl increases water demand, urban supply will not be compromised given the large volume of available water in the basin. However, the indirect consequences of urban sprawl, such as industrialization and agricultural intensification, may compromise the quality of this resource and require better water use management in the region.

Keywords: Land use modelling; Population growth; Urbanization; Water supply.