University of Oulu

Karimidastenaei, Z., Avellán, T., Sadegh, M., Kløve, B., & Haghighi, A. T. (2022). Unconventional water resources: Global opportunities and challenges. Science of The Total Environment, 827, 154429.

Unconventional water resources : global opportunities and challenges

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Author: Karimidastenaei, Zahra1; Avellán, Tamara1; Sadegh, Mojtaba2;
Organizations: 1Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4300, FIN-90014 Oulu, Finland
2Department of Civil Engineering, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID, 83725, United States of America
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-06-22


Water is of central importance for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. With predictions of dire global water scarcity, attention is turning to resources that are considered to be unconventional, and hence called Unconventional Water Resources (UWRs). These are considered as supplementary water resources that need specialized processes to be used as water supply. The literature encompasses a vast number of studies on various UWRs and their usefulness in certain environmental and/or socio-economic contexts. However, a recent, all-encompassing article that brings the collective knowledge on UWRs together is missing. Considering the increasing importance of UWRs in the global push for water security, the current study intends to offer a nuanced understanding of the existing research on UWRs by summarizing the key concepts in the literature. The number of articles published on UWRs have increased significantly over time, particularly in the past ten years. And while most publications were authored from researchers based in the USA or China, other countries such as India, Iran, Australia, and Spain have also featured prominently. Here, twelve general types of UWRs were used to assess their global distribution, showing that climatic conditions are the main driver for the application of certain UWRs. For example, the use of iceberg water obviously necessitates access to icebergs, which are taken largely from arctic regions. Overall, the literature review demonstrated that, even though UWRs provide promising possibilities for overcoming water scarcity, current knowledge is patchy and points towards UWRs being, for the most part, limited in scope and applicability due to geographic, climatic, economic, and political constraints. Future studies focusing on improved documentation and demonstration of the quantitative and socio-economic potential of various UWRs could help in strengthening the case for some, if not all, UWRs as avenues for the sustainable provision of water.

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Series: Science of the total environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN-E: 1879-1026
ISSN-L: 0048-9697
Volume: 827
Article number: 154429
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154429
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: This work was supported by the Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki r.y. (MVTT) project number 42563, to which the authors would like to express their deep gratitude.
Dataset Reference: Supplementary data to this article can be found online at
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (