Document Type


Publication Date



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.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.