Category: Water

New report: practical guidance for using climate information for climate resilient water management

New report: practical guidance for using climate information for climate resilient water management

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, shows how climate information can be used effectively to inform decisions related to climate resilient water management (CRWM). The paper provides practical recommendations on how best to use and integrate climate information into decision-making processes, coupled with case studies showing what this looks like in a variety of different contexts. The paper argues that while using the best available climate information can help decision-makers to go beyond business-as-usual practices in water management, good decisions can be made even in the absence of good climate information and data.

Since 2014 the ACT programme has been actively working in five South Asian countries to help national and sub-national governments mainstream adaptation to climate change into development planning and delivery systems. As part of that work, the programme is introducing CRWM into the water resources management and agriculture sectors. As presented in an earlier learning paper “Climate-Resilient Water Management: An operational framework from South Asia”, one major factor to take CRWM beyond business-as-usual approaches is using the best available climate information and data.

CRWM needs to be informed by reliable information about physical exposure and social vulnerability to climate shocks and stresses in order to create a comprehensive narrative of the impact that climate extremes, uncertainty, and variability can have on water resources management. This requires combining different types of climate information. ACT’s new paper seeks to inform government agencies and individual officials, practitioners and donors, researchers and wider civil society on:

  • How to understand the role of climate information in producing analysis including a typology of different types of climate information; and
  • How to best use climate information to inform and guide the policy-making processes.

Based on experience and learning from ACT projects, the paper presents 10 key recommendations for integrating climate information into water resources management. This is targeted at those seeking to design and implement CRWM programmes and initiatives, to help overcome some of the critical challenges to accessing and using climate information.

Climate change is already impacting the water cycle. In particular, climate change is thought to be making the monsoon more erratic and unpredictable, and decreasing the number of rainfall days while, at the same time, increasing their intensity.[1] Additionally, climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of both floods and droughts.[2] At same time, in South Asia, as in much of the world, water demand is increasing and accelerating in response to population growth, urbanisation, increased industrial demand, and the relatively high dependence on agriculture for livelihoods. The latter is especially problematic as rising temperatures and less rainfall decrease soil moisture, forcing farmers to water their crops more. Changes in the hydrologic cycle coupled with increased water demand will have manifold impacts on food and livelihood security, agriculture and urbanisation, industrialisation and, hence, the economy at large. As a result, there is a need for the South Asian water resources sector to plan for climate change.

Click here to access the full ACT learning paper “Using climate information for Climate-Resilient Water Management: Moving from science to action” and a learning brief.


[1] Loo, Y., Billa, L., and Singh, A. (2015). Effect of climate change on seasonal monsoon in Asia and its impact on the variability of monsoon rainfall in Southeast Asia. Geoscience Frontiers, Volume 6, Issue 6, 817-823.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S167498711400036X

[2] Kundzewicz, Z.W., L.J. Mata, N.W. Arnell, P. Döll, P. Kabat, B. Jiménez, K.A. Miller, T. Oki, Z. Sen and I.A. Shiklomanov, 2007: Freshwater resources and their management. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 173-210. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter3.pdf

Cover photo my Dr Michel Royon/Wikimedia (public domain).
How can cities reduce water-energy nexus pressures?

How can cities reduce water-energy nexus pressures?

By Robert C. Brears

Cities over the past century have become the driving force of the global economy. Accounting for over half the world’s population and generating around 80% of global GDP, cities provide numerous opportunities for development and growth. Cities however bring about risks and challenges to people and the environment. By 2050, demand for water is projected to increase by 55% mainly due to increased demand from urban populations. At the same time demand for energy in providing water and wastewater treatment services will increase.

Water and energy interconnected

Energy and water are interlinked in two ways, first, water is used in the production of nearly all types of energy (coal, geothermal, hydro, oil and gas, nuclear), and second, energy is the dominant cost factor in the provision of water and wastewater services (extracting and conveying water, treating water, distributing water, using water and collecting and treating wastewater). In fact, energy can account for up to 30% of total operating costs of water and wastewater utilities: in some developing countries this can be as high as 40% of the total operating cost. Meanwhile, on average 15% of the world’s total water withdrawals are used for energy production.

Reducing water-energy nexus pressures

Cities around the world have nonetheless initiated innovative processes that attempt to disconnect rising urban populations from increased demand for water and energy. Examples include Dubai of the UAE and Phnom Penh of Cambodia using technological and management innovations to reduce urban water-energy nexus pressures.

Case 1: Smart meters in Dubai

In its pursuit of being water and energy smart the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is installing smart meters across the Emirate enabling customers to receive real-time information on water and energy consumption. This will enable them to monitor actual consumption to better understand and manage bills. Specifically, in addition to providing current consumption data, DEWA’s smart meters will provide customers with historical consumption data as well as a breakdown of consumption processes that use water and energy. This will enable customers to identify water and energy efficiencies in their homes. The smart meter data is delivered to customers’ smartphones or tables via DEWA’s Smart App, allowing them to view billing information, graphs to check and compare consumption as well as set caps for both water and electricity consumption. Overall DEWA aims to have 1.2 million meters installed within 5 years. The installation of the smart meters will be in two stages:

  1. Smart meter installation: 200,000 smart meters will be installed all over Dubai which will be connected to a new advanced computerized system and software.
  2. DEWA will install the remaining smart meters. Enhancements of the operating system will be performed in conjunction with increasing the number of installed meters.

Case 2: Phnom Penh reducing its leakage rate

Phnom Penh’s Water Supply Authority has a non-revenue water (NRW) rate of around 7%, which is one of the lowest rates in the world. To reduce leakage, as well as energy required in treating water to potable standards – nearly 45% of the Authority’s operating cost is attributed to energy consumption – the Authority has installed a telemeter system that detects high leakages and illegal connections in different zones of the water supply system. To detect leakages more efficiently the city has been divided into 58 sub-zones each with its own local leak detection system. To ensure leaks are fixed rapidly the utility has leak repair teams on standby that operate 24/7, with the response time being two hours after a leak is detected. To ensure the utility is proactive in detecting leaks the Authority has established leak detection teams that are offered incentives to find leaks throughout the water supply system: to become more efficient in its operations incentives have become an important element of the Authority’s staff remuneration.  At the end of each year the utility’s NRW Committee reviews all leakage work and analyses each leak detection teams’ performance. The most efficient teams – based on the ratio of leaks at the start of the year with the end of the year – are rewarded monetarily, with some technicians having received rewards of up to 25% of their annual salaries.

With rapid urbanization increasing demand for water, and energy, cities around the world are exploring a variety of technological and management innovations to reduce urban water-energy nexus pressures.


Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). He is the founder of Mitidaption, Mark and Focus, is Director on the International Board of the Indo Global Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture, and a Visiting Fellow (non-resident) at the Center for Conflict Studies at MIIS, Monterey, USA.

This article originally appeared on The Water Blog and is shared with kind permission. Read the original article here.

Cover photo by eladg/Pixabay (public domain).

Japan experiences worst floods in decades

Japan experiences worst floods in decades

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

At least 179 people have died and 70 are still missing in Japan after the country experienced the worst floods in decades. More than 8.63 million people across 23 prefectures have been ordered to evacuate their homes in central and western Japan as torrential rains have led to widespread floods and landslides. The prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi suffered the most severe impacts.

Water and power have been cut off in many areas leaving thousands of homes without supply. The limited access to water is proving especially difficult to cope with, as temperatures in some areas of the country are rising to scorching 35C. Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was spending two billion yen (£13 million) to speed up supply deliveries and other support for evacuation centres and residents.

According to remotely sensed data from NASA the areas with the most precipitation saw a rainfall accumulation of over 800mm from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9. However, local rainfall amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.

The map above shows rainfall accumulation from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9, 2018. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Teruo Sasai, resident of Kurashiki in Okayama, said “The floodwaters were up over my house, probably reaching 4 or 5 meters, up past the roof all the way to the TV antenna. Thankfully, I was OK and nobody in this neighborhood was severely injured.”

As rains started to dissipate on Sunday, search and rescue was rolled out on a massive scale with 70,000 workers deployed for relief efforts.

While it is too soon to attribute the event to climate change with certainty, it is worth noting that a 2012 study by the Japanese government found that the number of days with 100 millimetres or more of precipitation had been increasing since the 1970s. The study also found an “increasing risk of heavy-rain induced disasters” due to climate change.

 


Cover photo by Disaster Prevention Promotion Office, Planning Department, Geographical Survey Institute/Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0): Image from 2017 when Akatani River was overflowed by the Northern Kyūshū Heavy Rain in Asakura City, Fukuoka Prefecture on July 7.
How to fight desertification and drought at home and away

How to fight desertification and drought at home and away

By Andrew Slaughter, University of Saskatchewan

A growing human population and runaway consumption are putting unsustainable pressures on the natural resources we depend on for survival. Our misuse and abuse of land and water is changing fertile land into deserts.

The word “desertification” conjures up images of the spread of existing deserts, with tall dunes spilling into villages and farmer’s fields. But it is actually a term that describes the way land can be transformed by climate variation and human activities, including deforestation, overgrazing (which causes erosion), the cultivation of unsuitable land and other poor land-use management decisions. We see this now in southern Africa, which has already lost at least 25 per cent of its soil fertility.

But not only developing countries are at risk. Almost 1 billion tonnes of soil is lost every year because of erosion resulting from poor land management in Europe alone. Desertification is one of the biggest environmental problems facing humanity, and has already affected over 40 per cent of the world’s population — 3.2 billion people.

Given that climate change could cause more frequent droughts and that population growth puts more pressure on natural resources, land degradation is an increasing global threat to food security, a contributor to poverty and a barrier to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It is clear that desertification is a problem of global proportions, requiring a unified strategy among all countries. If action is not taken now, desertification will accelerate, resulting in further migration and conflict.

Seeing the threat

Not all areas are equally at risk of desertification. Drylands, like those in the Karoo of South Africa and the prairies of Canada, are regions where evapotranspiration (the transfer of water from land and plants to the atmosphere) far exceeds precipitation.

Under natural conditions, drylands are characterised by slow cycles of changing climate and vegetation, moving from one stable state to another. More frequent and severe droughts and human disturbances, such as agriculture, grazing and fire, cause more abrupt shifts that can be irreversible.

The threat of land degradation is so widely recognized that the UN established the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) nearly 25 years ago, in 1994. It is a legally binding agreement between the partner nations to work together to achieve sustainable land management.

All member countries of the UNCCD recently agreed to fight desertification and restore degraded land by 2030. On June 17, Ecuador hosted the World Day to Combat Desertification, under the slogan “Land has true value – Invest in it,” and used the occasion to showcase the use of sustainable land management in developing the country’s bio-economy.

A tentative pledge

Despite its initial commitment to combat desertification, Canada withdrew from the UNCCD in 2013. The reasons were unclear, but it may have been because membership was seen as too costly, without obvious benefits for the environment. The departure left Canada as the only country not party to the agreement.

However, Canada rejoined last year, acknowledging the link between desertification and many of Canada’s development priorities. The factors driving land degradation are interconnected and include population growth and migration, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Current rates of global land degradation are in the order of 12 million hectares per year. And yet food production must increase by up to 70 per cent by 2050 to feed the projected global population of 9.1 billion people. Current land-management practices are clearly unsustainable.

The threatened area is so large that halting land degradation and scaling up solutions — from farms and villages to watersheds and continents — requires globally coordinated solutions. By rejoining the UNCCD, Canada can take its rightful place within a coordinated global effort to combat desertification — and strengthen its own efforts nationally.

Why Canada should care

Canada has already cooperated on a regional level with other countries to combat drought and minimize the impacts of reduced agricultural productivity, wildfires and water shortages.

In 2016, for example, when droughts hounded North America, burning Fort McMurray, Alta. and adding to California’s long-running water shortage, Canada cooperated with the United States and Mexico to minimize their impacts. The resulting North American Climate Services Partnership (NACSP) facilitated an early drought forecasting system and drought impact assessments.

In addition, Canada faces its own land degradation challenges. Most people associate dryland regions with a hot and dry climate. However, large parts of the Canadian Prairie provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — can be classified as drylands. They are also enormously important agricultural areas, accounting for 60 per cent of the cropland and 80 per cent of the rangeland in Canada.

The Prairies expect to see longer and more intense periods of drought interspersed with major flooding with future climate change. And although North America is one of five regions identified by the UN as facing relatively fewer challenges related to land compared to the countries most at risk, the region does face significant water stress challenges.

Way forward

The Paris Agreement recognized “safeguarding food security” as an important priority for climate change adaptation, which goes hand-in-hand with combating desertification.

The agricultural sector will play an important role in mitigating the impacts of climate change — and fighting land degradation. It can protect against drought, flooding, landslides and erosion, while maintaining natural vegetation, which helps store carbon in the soil. But agricultural production will also have to become more efficient. It will need to adapt to periods of lower water availability and take measures to preserve fertile soil. We must also look to how we manage our water resources to help agriculture adapt to climate change and stop desertification.

The University of Saskatchewan is currently developing tools that can be used by government and in research to predict and manage the water flow and water quality of Canada’s large river basins. This will allow water to be managed at the scale of entire river basins and help determine how industry, agriculture and mining can fairly share this limited resource.

The ConversationCanada has, for now, recognized the link between desertification and many of its development priorities, including agriculture, security, water and renewable energy. But we need to ensure the Canadian government remains committed to combating drought and desertification here — and in the rest of the world.


Andrew Slaughter is a visiting professor at the University of Saskatchewan. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cover photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash.
Rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year by 2100

Rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year by 2100

By Alex Kirby

In 80 years the rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year globally, with the oceans possibly nearing two metres above their present levels.

The rising seas’ cost may be US$27tn a year for the world by 2100 if it fails to meet the UN’s 2ºC global warming limit by then, with sea level rise of, at its worst, almost six feet (nearly two metres), new research says.

A study led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) says the worldwide cost of flooding caused by rising sea levels, at their median level, could by 2100 be $14 trillion, if governments miss the United Nations target of keeping the rise in global temperatures, caused by unremitting fossil fuel use, to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. But the extent and cost could be much higher.

The target was agreed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, with many politicians and most scientists urging them to treat 2ºC as a more modest and feasible limit while aiming if possible for 1.5°C. The cuts in greenhouse gas emissions already promised through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are not yet enough to achieve the 2ºC limit, let alone the more stringent figure, and much deeper cuts will be needed.

The researchers also found that it was upper-middle income countries such as China that would see the largest increase in flood costs, while the richest ones would suffer the least, because of the high levels of protection infrastructure they already enjoyed. The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Svetlana Jevrejeva of the NOC is the study’s lead author. She said: “More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, less than 10 metres above sea level. In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters. So sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”

The researchers explored the pace and consequences of global and regional sea level rise under warming limited to both 1.5 ºC and 2 ºC, and compared their findings with projections for unmitigated warming.

Using World Bank income groups (high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low income countries), they then assessed the impact of sea level rise in coastal areas from a global perspective.

Steep increase

Dr Jevrejeva said: “We found that with a temperature rise trajectory of 1.5°C, by 2100 the median sea level will have risen by 0.52m (1.7ft). But, if the 2°C target is missed, we will see a median sea level rise of 0.86m (2.8ft), and a worst-case rise of 1.8m (5.9ft).”

If warming was not mitigated the global annual flood costs without adaptation would increase to $14tn annually for the median sea level rise of 0.86m, and up to $27tn per year for 1.8m. This would account for 2.8% of global GDP in 2100.

The conclusions she and her colleagues reached sound hair-raising and possibly far-fetched. But an earlier study put the possible global cost by 2100 of coastal flooding at nearly four times more than the NOC team – $100tn.

Another group of researchers suggested that if global warming continued at its present rate it could start a process in Antarctica which would lead ultimately to sea level rise of almost three metres.

Impact on tropics

The projected difference in coastal sea levels is also likely to mean that tropical areas will see very high sea levels more often, the study says.

“These extreme sea levels will have a negative effect on the economies of developing coastal nations, and the habitability of low-lying coastlines,” said Dr Jevrejeva.

“Small, low-lying island nations such as the Maldives will be very easily affected, and the pressures on their natural resources and environment will become even greater.

“These results place further emphasis on putting even greater efforts into mitigating rising global temperatures.”


This article was originally published on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by B137/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0): Tidal flooding in downtown Miami, FL.
Scientists examine threats to food security upon meeting Paris climate targets

Scientists examine threats to food security upon meeting Paris climate targets

By Georgina Wade

The Paris climate agreement’s aspirational goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C or, at least, “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial temperatures requires a further understanding of the physical and social challenges for a warming world in both temperature scenarios.  To do this, scientists are studying the impacts of various emission reductions.

A new paper from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A examined the changes in climate extremes, fresh water availability, and vulnerability to food insecurity at a 1.5°C temperature rise compared to a 2°C target.

Using a set of impacts-relevant indices and a global land surface model to examine the projected changes in weather extremes and their implications for freshwater availability and vulnerability to food insecurity, the study finds climate-related vulnerabilities increase more at 2°C global warming than 1.5°C in approximately three-quarters of countries assessed.

The Hunger and Climate Vulnerability Index used in the study incorporates how exposed a country is to climate hazards, how sensitive a country’s agriculture is to climate hazards, and a country’s ability to adapt. With these metrics and indices calculated for 122 countries across the globe, the authors reveal that some areas will be more impacted than others.

For example, heavier rainfall will affect Asia more than other regions. However, increases to drought could hit Africa and South America hardest.

Increases in either heavy rainfall or drought events imply increased vulnerability to food insecurity, but if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 2°C global warming in approximately 76% of developing countries. At 2°C, the countries of Oman, Bangladesh Mauritania and Yemen are projected to reach unprecedented levels of vulnerability to food security.

Helping us identify the winners and losers in a warming world, this study can assist in driving policymakers to make decisions that will limit these temperature increases. From a practical matter, current climate change mitigation efforts are insufficient to hit either temperature target, but research is giving us some idea of where our actions could take us and highlights urgent adaptation needs.


Changes in climate extremes, fresh water availability and vulnerability to food insecurity projected at 1.5°C and 2°C global warming with a higher-resolution global climate model: Richard A. Betts, Lorenzo Alfieri, Catherine Bradshaw, John Caesar, Luc Feyen, Pierre Friedlingstein, Laila Gohar, Aristeidis Koutroulis, Kirsty Lewis, Catherine Morfopoulos, Lamprini Papadimitriou, Katy J. Richardson, Ioannis Tsanis, Klaus Wyser. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 2018 376 20160452; DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2016.0452. Published 2 April 2018. URL http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/376/2119/20160452

Cover photo by Dmitrij Paskevic on Unsplash
Cape Town climate conference kicks off in wake of water crisis

Cape Town climate conference kicks off in wake of water crisis

By Georgina Wade

This week, a major international climate change conference takes place in a city that is dealing with one of the most severe water crises in its history. The Adaptation Futures conference, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, will host delegates from around the world to discuss how the world can better prepare for climate change and its impacts. The conference has put in place measures to reduce its water demand, but in doing so it has also highlighted the severe inequality in both access to water, and in the ability to adapt to a lack of it.

An El-Niño-triggered drought struck the Western Cape province of South Africa in 2015, resulting in a severe water shortage in the city of Cape Town and the surrounding region. At the start of this year, April 2018 was announced by the government as “day zero” – a moment when dam levels would be so low that they would turn off the taps in the city and send people to communal water collection points. The water shortages are shining a light on South Africa’s already high-income inequality. South Africa has a long history of social inequity, and to this day 10 percent of the population own more than 90% of the country’s wealth.

With the current water consumption limit set at 50 litres per person, surges of spending on personal efforts to counteract the limited water supply are on the rise amongst wealthier residents. One such method is through the installation of a borehole which works by tapping into underwater reservoirs.

Borehole installation in the backyards of the wealthier Cape Town suburbs currently costs anywhere from $6,000 USD, with high demand resulting in a waiting list of requests that can take up to 7 months to fulfil. While borehole use is legal, Level 6b water restrictions currently prohibit the use of borehole water for outdoor purposes and requires that all water use be metered and recorded for availability upon inspection. Additionally, machines that turn moisture into drinking water are costing residents around $2,000 USD per installation. “The lesson here is that you can’t trust the government to provide water for you,” said Gabby De Wet, whose family owns De Wet’s Wellpoints and Boreholes. But where does this leave those that can’t afford to prepare for the worst?

With residents scrambling to find their own private solutions, the availability of options truly boils down to monetary income. And for the poor, it means waiting to see what solutions the government comes up with while contemplating what cuts can be made to weekly food intake in order to buy bottled water.

Although water conservation efforts have pushed back “Day Zero” to 2019, informal settlements on the outskirts of the city are still struggling to obtain clean water to meet their daily needs. For many residents of the city’s low-income townships, water has always been a rare commodity. In Cape Town’s largest township, Khayelitsha, it is estimated that around 1.2 million people live in informal housing, relying on communal toilets and drawing water from communal standpipes.

Wealthier residents still use more water

Some say poorer residents are unfairly blamed for overuse of water resources, as concerns rise over water waste. After exploring the distribution of water usage, the Associated Press found that most of the misuse can be attributed to those of the wealthier class. According to water experts, the Cape Town’s poor townships make up 25 percent of the city’s 4 million people yet only use 4.5 percent of the water.

“It has been in the areas where people have gardens and swimming pools,” Kirsty Carden of Future Water Institute said. “They are much more profligate in the way that they use water, because they’re used to the water just coming out of the taps.”

Cape Town’s economy relies heavily on business and event tourism with the city recently crowned by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) as the number one city in Africa for business tourism events. Given that tourism supports an estimated 300,000 jobs in South Africa’s Wester Cape province, visitors avoiding Cape Town due to water shortages would have a significant impact on peoples’ livelihoods.

While additional population pressure from tourists may increase water demand slightly, research suggests that international visitors to Cape Town add a maximum of 1% to the local population during the peak summer season. With short-term and relatively moderate water needs compared to other water consumers, the $3.4 billion economic contribution tourism provides to the province holds a significantly positive impact to Cape Town and the thousands of households it supports.

A climate conference in the midst of a climate crisis

Adaptation Futures 2018 aims to facilitate dialogues for solutions between key actors from diverse perspectives and regions on adaptation efforts linked to sustainable development, investment and planning. With a strong focus on Africa and the Global South, the conference aims to use the Cape Town setting to foreground developing country adaptation issues.

Acknowledging the significant ecological and carbon footprints conferences inevitably have, the organisers have outlined and established methods towards reducing impacts in an effort to ‘green the conference’.

“The organisers of Adaptation Futures 2018 are actively planning to reduce or offset the conference footprint as much as possible,” the website states. “Minimising the conference footprint depends on every single participant and we count on everyone to make this conference notably and visibly environmentally friendly in both word and action.”

The conference venue, the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), has decreased its use of municipal water through rain water harvesting tanks and its own desalination unit, as well as using bottled water for all culinary purposes. Additionally, the CTICC has aligned all its sustainability efforts and commitments with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards.

The CTICC’s 65,000 litres of rain water storage tanks allow for the reuse of water for all cleaning and maintenance activities inside the centre. Furthermore, the implementation of air-cooling systems that create water from air will allow for the storage of water in the available 10,000 litres of grey water storage tanks. With a recorded 42% saving in water consumption for the first quarter of its current financial year compared to the same period last year, the CTICC’s focus remains on reducing water usage wherever possible and ensuring their events run successfully in a responsible manner.

Each delegate will be expected to adhere to the water restriction of 50 litres per person per day and will be provided with a durable water bottle to be refilled at designated water points. For the 200,000 litres of water expected to be used by 1,000 delegates, Adaptation Futures 2018 will compensate by donating rain water harvesting tanks to a local project that will reduce future municipal consumption.

Emphasising that an offset is not a license to use more water, Adaptation Futures is encouraging all of its delegates to adhere to the stipulated level 6b water restrictions. Additionally, the city of Cape Town will be hosting two sessions on urban water scarcity and delegates will be invited to contribute potential adaptation solutions.

Perpetuating inequality?

While some have raised questions about whether Adaptation Futures should have been moved from Cape Town so as to relieve pressure on water resources, others make the point that the event has an opportunity to bring global attention to climate risks. There is no doubt that the conference has been proactive in reducing the impact of its own water use, however has it done enough to reduce the problem of water inequality in the city?

Hotels in the area are now taking steps to decrease reliance on municipal water supply. South Africa’s biggest hotel group, Tsogo Hotel Holdings, is even building a desalination plant that will help supply its Cape Town hotel with their own water, as well as provide alternative water augmentation. The new plant, will use a considerable amount of energy to produce potable water for some of the wealthiest of Cape Town’s visitors. It risks becoming a totem of water inequality in the city.

Although Adaptation Futures claims it will be supporting a worthy project that reduces municipal water consumption and increases off grid water usage, the details of this project have yet to be published and may not be created in the interest of benefiting the poorer neighbourhoods. Rather than focusing minds on delivering enough water to the city’s central business district, Adaptation Futures should use this opportunity to help finance water efficiency and supply projects that benefit some of these more water-vulnerable communities. Water scarcity will be front of mind for many of the delegates to the conference; to provide city-wide solutions to future climate scarcity, the inequality of the residents’ capacity and capability to take adaptation action must also be a primary consideration.


Acclimatise will be presenting a number of sessions at Adaptation Futures 2018. Our team members John Firth, Laura Canevari, and Virginie Fayolle will be at the conference. Find out where you can meet them by clicking here.

Cover photograph by Mike Peel/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-4.0): Reservoir in Cape Town, view from Signal Hill, taken on 12 June 2014.
Morocco heads for a thirsty future

Morocco heads for a thirsty future

By Kieran Cooke

Despite ambitious efforts to cope with the effects of water shortage and climate change, Morocco faces a dauntingly dry century.

Morocco, host of the 2016 United Nations conference on climate change, is facing a number of problems associated with global warming, including ever-increasing water shortages.

In recent years drought in what is one of the most water-stressed regions of the world has caused severe damage to the economies of Morocco and neighbouring North African states.

In 2015/2016 a prolonged drought caused Morocco’s production of grain to plummet by more than 70%. In 2017 water shortages became acute and the King of Morocco, Muhammed VI, issued a decree calling on the faithful at mosques throughout the country to pray for rain.

The droughts have led to social unrest in what till now has been considered one of the more politically stable countries in the region.

“Higher temperatures, less rainfall and increased land salinity in a country that is already suffering from insufficient water resources do not augur well for the future of agriculture”

Protests over what has been seen as government inaction and incompetence have broken out in several areas; in November last year 15 people were crushed to death as hungry farming families queued for supplies of flour.

A bad situation looks likely to become worse. Latest research by the Brookings Institution in the US predicts that climate change is going to result in average temperatures rising across the North African region by 3°C by 2050.

Rainfall over much of Morocco is expected to decline by 10% at the same time as water usage rates rise substantially.

“Higher temperatures, less rainfall and increased land salinity in a country that is already suffering from insufficient water resources do not augur well for the future of agriculture, unless urgent action is taken now,” says the Brookings research.

Expanding Sahara

There is also concern that, along with warming, the Sahara desert could advance northwards, further threatening Morocco’s important agricultural sector, which accounts for 15% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 40% of the country’s workforce.

To meet the challenges of climate change and water shortages the government has brought in its Plan Maroc Vert.

The plan includes an ambitious renewable energy programme, with a target of producing more than 50% of electricity supply by 2030 through a combination of solar and wind power.

Near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara desert, Morocco is building what’s billed as one of the world’s biggest solar installations.

Need for basics

To cope with water shortages the government is also constructing what is likely to be the world’s largest desalination plant – turning seawater into drinking water – near the tourist destination of Agadir on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

Officials have also promised to spend millions promoting more efficient irrigation systems, and they are encouraging farmers to plant fruit trees rather than water-hungry cereal crops in an effort to promote water conservation and prevent further soil erosion.

Critics say the government’s approach is half-hearted: they say too much is being spent on mega-projects such as high-speed railways and constructing what will be Africa’s tallest building, rather than repairing and expanding basic infrastructure.

Social Watch, an international network of citizens’ organisations fighting poverty around the world, says 35% of Morocco’s water is lost through bad piping. Water is also polluted by industrial and urban waste.


Cover photo by Anes El bardoudi on Unsplash.
New approach puts theory of Climate-Resilient Water Management into practice on the ground

New approach puts theory of Climate-Resilient Water Management into practice on the ground

South Asia has 23.7% of the global population but only 4.6% of the world’s renewable water sources. Countries in the region already face considerable water management challenges due to high population density, poverty, and a high dependence on agriculture as a source of livelihood. Water resources in South Asia are overexploited and depleting fast, and institutions are struggling to manage and allocate water effectively. Climate change will only exacerbate existing problems through irregular rainfall patterns and increased incidence of floods and droughts.

Since 2014 the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has been actively working in five South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan – to help national and sub-national governments plan for, and manage, the impacts of climate change in the water sector. The ACT programme has championed a Climate-Resilient Water Management (CRWM) approach as a way of increasing the resilience of water systems on which billions of people rely.  The programme’s activities in this domain range from preparing urban flood management plans and adapting agriculture to increasing incidences to drought, to mainstreaming climate adaptation in water policies and estimating the future demand for water under different climate scenarios.

This framework is informed by these activities and within this water management interventions are sorted into three categories:

  1. Water resource management (including assessment, supply augmentation and demand management);
  2. Management of extreme events (floods and droughts); and,
  3. Creating an enabling environment for CRWM (including mainstreaming climate impacts in sectoral and cross-sectoral policies, among other governance instruments).

The framework distinguishes CRWM activities as different from conventional water management because they have to adhere to three main criteria:

  1. The best available climate information and data have to be used to go beyond business as usual;
  2. The principles of resilience, such as using ‘buffers’ and having flexibility and adaptability are systematically integrated; and,
  3. A sharp focus on reducing the vulnerability of poor and marginalised communities.

Government officials are already aware of unseasonal, more intense and frequent, instances of drought, monsoon rains and floods, and urgently seek ways to address the impacts citizens face. This presents an opportunity and entry point to engage policy makers in the CRWM process.


The full ACT learning paper “Climate-Resilient Water Management: An operational framework from South Asia” and a learning brief can be accessed here: http://www.acclimatise.uk.com/collaborations/action-on-climate-today/#ui-id-7

Listen to a 60-second audio abstract of the paper:

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Cover photo by Milaap.org/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Tokyo’s massive flood protection facility might not be “enough” due to climate change

Tokyo’s massive flood protection facility might not be “enough” due to climate change

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

In Tokyo, an enormous underground flood protection system pumps excess water out of the metropolitan area into the sea and has reduced flood occurrences massively. But, climate change might take it to its limits.

When you look at a photograph of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, or G-Cans, you might be reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mines of Moria and the terrifying Balrog that lived there. However, it is the world’s largest underground flood water diversion infrastructure, built on the outskirts of Tokyo.

The numbers associated with this cavernous super structure are truly impressive: 50 metres beneath the surface, five containment silos, each 65 metres high and with a diameter of 32 metres, are connected by a 6.3-kilometre network of tunnels. The silos are so big, they could fit the Statue of Liberty inside. The structure also has a large cistern, the “Underground Temple”, 18 metres high, 78 metres wide, and 177 metres long with 59 massive pillars and connected to the drainage facility of the system which consists of 4 pumps that can pump a total of 200 cubic metres of water per second.

Concept drawing of G-Cans. Source: Edo River Office, Kanto Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism.

The underground system was built in 2006 and cost roughly $2 billion. Now, climate change threatens to erode the capacity thresholds of G-Cans. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, Japan, already one of the wettest areas of the world, will see even more rainfall. Additionally, sea level rise is threatening Tokyo, which is further exacerbated by subsidence. In 2015, heavy rainfall caused by a typhoon filled Tokyo’s flood protection system with almost 19 million cubic metres of water – which could roughly fill 7600 Olympic size pools – and took four days to be pumped out.

For the time being, the facility remains crucial to Tokyo’s flood defences. However, in the face of climate change and possibly looking at a future where this structure alone will not be able to protect Tokyo’s 38 million inhabitants from floods, Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, former chief civil engineer of Tokyo’s Edogawa ward, said to the New Statesman that current flood protection measures “are not enough.” Kuniharu Abe, who heads the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, further adds he is “not sure Japan can build something like this again.”

It begs the question if attempting another infrastructure project of such enormous proportions (literally and financially) even is the correct way forward. Concrete defences often offer a very obvious and visible form of flood protection and can attract more people to flood-prone areas. This is what happened to Saitama, where the G-Cans facility has reduced floods significantly. Many businesses settled in the area and might face a future when frequent flooding returns.

It is important to emphasise that the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel is by no means a story of failure, it has already avoided many floods and will, at the very least, continue to alleviate them in the future. But it tells a story about the fact that adaptation to increasing flood risk, or any climate risk for that matter, is never one-dimensional. No single project will remove the risk. It is important to consider many aspects from infrastructural solutions, zoning and land use, to public risk awareness and preparedness.


Cover photo by Kunitaka NIIDATE/Wikimedia Commons: Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel Kasukabe, Saitama, Japan