Invisible water security: Moisture recycling and water resilience

Patrick W. Keys, Miina Porkka, Lan Wang-Erlandsson, Ingo Fetzer, Tom Gleeson, Line J. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Water security is key to planetary resilience for human society to flourish in the face of global change. Atmospheric moisture recycling – the process of water evaporating from land, flowing through the atmosphere, and falling out again as precipitation over land – is the invisible mechanism by which water influences resilience, that is the capacity to persist, adapt, and transform. Through land-use change, mainly by agricultural expansion, humans are destabilizing and modifying moisture recycling and precipitation patterns across the world. Here, we provide an overview of how moisture recycling changes may threaten tropical forests, dryland ecosystems, agriculture production, river flows, and water supplies in megacities, and review the budding literature that explores possibilities to more consciously manage and govern moisture recycling. Novel concepts such as the precipitationshed allows for the source region of precipitation to be understood, addressed and incorporated in existing water resources tools and sustainability frameworks. We conclude that achieving water security and resilience requires that we understand the implications of human influence on moisture recycling, and that new research is paving the way for future possibilities to manage and mitigate potentially catastrophic effects of land use and water system change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100046
JournalWater Security
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Water
  • Evaporation
  • Moisture recycling
  • Precipitation
  • Resilience
  • System dynamics
  • Water governance


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