A new paper examines the role of the water cycle in tackling climate change and the effect that human modifications have on the water cycle. The paper includes contributions by Professor Simon Dadson, Professor of Hydrology at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, and was released to coincide with World Water Day.

The water cycle is essential for all life on Earth, but humans are a major part of disturbing processes and modifying the water cycle - for example, surface water withdrawals, and groundwater pumping - even deforestation has an effect on the water cycle.

Historically, there has been abundant research on different parts of the water cycle and how it helps to regulate the climate and support ecosystems, but this research has previously focused on understanding systems on a smaller scale, such as a watershed or a nation. What was lacking was a comprehensive study of what human modifications of the water cycle mean for the stability of the planet as a whole.

The paper looks at establishing limits to a variety of human modifications on the water cycle, to help protect and conserve the stability of the planet.

The authors hope it will help to inform local and global policy towards a more sustainable future.

The paper was released on World Water Day - an annual UN observance that highlights the importance of freshwater and advocates the sustainable management of freshwater resources.