Water scarcity has become a major threat to sustainable development under climate change. To reduce the population exposure to water scarcity and improve universal access to safe drinking water are important targets of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in the near future. This study aims to examine the potential of applying adaptive inner-basin water allocation measures (AIWAM), which were not explicitly considered in previous studies, for mitigating water scarcity in the future period (2020-2050). By incorporating AIWAM in water scarcity assessment, nonagricultural water uses are assumed to have high priority over agricultural water use and thus would receive more water supply. Results show that global water deficit is projected to be ~3241.9 km3/yr in 2050, and severe water scarcity is mainly found in arid and semi-arid regions, e.g. Western US, Northern China, and the Middle East. Future warming climate and socioeconomic development tend to aggravate global water scarcity, particularly in Northern Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The application of AIWAM could significantly mitigate water scarcity for nonagricultural sectors by leading to a decrease of global population subject to water scarcity by 12% in 2050 when compared to that without AIWAM. However, this is at the cost of reducing water availability for agricultural sector in the upstream areas, resulting in an increase of global irrigated cropland exposed to water scarcity by 6%. Nevertheless, AIWAM provides a useful scenario that helps design strategies for reducing future population exposure to water scarcity, particularly in densely populated basins and regions. Our findings highlight increasing water use competition across sectors between upstream and downstream areas, and the results provide useful information to develop adaptation strategies towards sustainable water management. All rights reserved, Elsevier.