In this paper a relatively simple procedure is presented to construct a global river routing network on a 0.5° latitude-longitude grid. In this network all grid cells in a catchment are coupled and have a flow direction, making it a useful tool in the modeling of river flow on a global scale. The flow directions are based on a digital elevation model and on information on the locations of major rivers (`stream burning'). The presented river routing network is specifically designed for the assessment of fresh water shortages. We tested the validity of the river routing network by comparing the computed drainage areas with published estimates. This comparison revealed a good similarity and it is concluded that the presented river routing network has sufficient quality to be implemented in global climate models. This could mean a considerable improvement of the surface parameterization in these models.