4.6.5. Adaptation to Climate Change in the Water Sector: an Overview
Water managers are accustomed to adapting to changing circumstances, many of
which can be regarded as analogs of future climate change, and a wide range
of adaptive options has been developed. Supply-side options are more familiar
to most water managers, but demand-side options increasingly are being implemented.
Water management is evolving continually, and this evolution will affect the
impact of climate change in practice. For reasons noted above, climate change
is likely to challenge existing water management practices, especially in countries
with less experience in incorporating uncertainty into water planning. The generic
issue is incorporation of climate change into the types of uncertainty traditionally
treated in water planning.
Integrated water resources management (IWRM) (Bogardi and Nachtnebel, 1994;
Kindler, 2000) increasingly is regarded as the most effective way to manage
water resources in a changing environment with competing demands. IWRM essentially
involves three major components: explicit consideration of all potential supply-side
and demand-side actions, inclusion of all stakeholders in the decision process,
and continual monitoring and review of the water resources situation. IWRM is
an effective approach in the absence of climate change, and there already are
many good reasons for it to be implemented. Adopting integrated water resources
management will go a long way toward increasing the ability of water managers
to adapt to climate change.
There are three final points to make:
- Upstream adaptation may have implications for downstream
uses. In other words, the impact of climate change on one user may be very
much determined by the actions of other users in response to climate change.
This emphasizes the need for basin-scale management.
- The emphasis in this section has been on managed water systems. In many
countries, particularly in rural parts of the developing world, water supply
is managed at the household level, utilizing local water sources.
There is a need to look at the implications of climate change in circumstances
of this type in which investment in substantial infrastructure is unlikely.
- Adaptation to climate change to reduce vulnerability in the water sector
should involve far more than just water managers. Increasing social vulnerability
to water stress (in terms of drought and flood) in many parts of the world
reflects a wide range of pressures, many of which are outside the responsibility
of water managers. Reducing vulnerability to climate change-induced flood
and drought will require decisions about issues such as development and planning
control, fiscal incentives (such as subsidized insurance or government disaster
relief) to occupy (and continue to occupy after loss) hazard-prone land, and