Q&A: Climate Change and Adaptation in International Waters Projects

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edit  ·  Q&A CompilationInternational Waters Management (Q&A)
The Q&A's (questions and answers) in this compilation are originally inspired by a set of priority topics from a needs survey and subsequent "clinics" discussions by participants of the 4th Biennial GEF International Waters Conference - Cape Town 2007. This constitutes an innovative attempt to developing a broadly shared, joint knowledge base on pertinent issues in "International Waters Management", using the advantages of a Wiki to promote a user-driven collaborative approach. The intent is to let this knowledge base grow, in a participant-driven matter. Contributers are very welcome. Please register with the WaterWiki Administrator to get editing rights.
Climate change is expected to alter water availability and use across the world in a significant and complex ways. It is a major global challenge with implications across GEF’s multiple focal areas (E.g., Climate Change and International Waters) and needs to be addressed adequately by recognizing and addressing those linkages. Major changes in precipitation, evaporation, temperature, soil moisture, runoff, infiltration, glacial melt and water quality are forecasted toresult from global warming. In some parts of the world, those changes are already occurring. Warmer conditions will also alter water use patterns and impact water demand (for irrigation, hydropower, industry, domestic, environmental and other uses). Sea level rise will affect coastal supplies through increased saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers.


What are the sources of data on climate change?

How do we assess vulnerability to climate change? (risk assessment)

What sectors have the highest priority?

How can you manage conflicts between agriculture, fisheries and livestock herders in the case of drastic decline in rainfall?

What does "adaptation" mean and what are its benefits?

  • See..
Climate Change and Adaptation
adaptation activities
  • Adaptation is best planned and implemented at basin (LME) and community levels.

What is the role of GEF funding in adaptation?

  • A lot of adaptation will be done by local people – eg. changes in farming systems to better cope with drought. The role of GEF is then as an enabler of adaptive capacity (knowledge, technology, finance, policy, institutions…). Also though, some adaptation will take place at larger scales and involve direct intervention by governments in building infrastructure, or moving populations. The role of GEF might then be to mitigate environmental impacts.
  • Increased frequency of floods and droughts and sea-level rise mean demands for new infrastructure will grow – eg. more storage is needed. GEF has a role to play in making sure new infrastructure is designed and operated to minimize environmental impacts. Also, assessments of infrastructure needs must have a broad view of infrastructure – eg. lakes, aquifers, wetlands and the condition of the basin. Thus, some investment will be in restoration and management of ecosystems goods and services in river basins.
  • GEF could play a role of compiling globally available information and develop adaptation guidelines and toolkits for key sectors that could be used by recipient nations.

What are some of the challenges facing projects in their efforts to "adapt"?

  • NAPAs are done at national level, but adaptation is best implemented at basin and community levels, and IW action plans need to be trans-boundary. There is often a mismatch in priorities and NAPAs can be inadequate for use in basin assessments and action plans. As a result, requirements to include adaptation in IW projects end up as ad hoc actions. GEF projects therefore need support and access to tools for use in vulnerability assessments.
  • Information and data on climate change impacts is never good enough. Uncertainty increases as scale diminishes.
  • Effective adaptation will require adequate ability to translate global information and forecasts generated from the Global Circulation Models to the needs to river basin planning and water utility and infrastructure design. The inability to accurately scale down global information to the needs of a particular river basin or water utility remains the most fundamental challenge facing effective adaptation in water resources today.

How do we access experience and information from other basins, LMEs or countries?

Set up an adaptation clearing house, perhaps as a satellite of IW:LEARN, for knowledge sharing on:

  • adaptation strategies (database of studies), key sectors for national studies/assessments of resilience capacity.
  • types of technologies, including infrastructure and agricultural practices that are being tried.
  • types of risk management approaches, including security funds, insurance chemes, new infrastructure specifications.
  • information from private sector and universities.

Specific adaptation concerns:

  • What are effective responses to saline intrusion of groundwater?
  • How can you plan for and support community coping strategies for more frequent floods and droughts?
  • How can you adapt to increased glacier melt and eventual decline of glacier runoff?
  • How to manage impacts on fisheries such as shifts in species distributions and changes in abundance?

Further Readings

Links to Other Organizations and Other Resources

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