Assessing vulnerability: identification of current and future water resources availabilities in vulnerable regions
Water supply in mountainous and arid regions is often highly variable. With the changing climate, the water supply in these regions is becoming even more unpredictable, making the people living in these areas and relying on water for agricultural irrigation and domestic purposes even more vulnerable.
One of the goals of the water security project was to assess the vulnerability of these communities.
Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA)
A new method termed Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) was developed and applied to case studies in vulnerable areas.
The CRIDA approach allows to develop adequate and effective climate change adaptation measures by taking future climate scenarios into account in water resources planning. It is multi-step process that embraces a participatory, bottom-up approach to identify water security hazards, and is sensitive to indigenous and gender-related water vulnerabilities. By engaging local communities in the design of the analysis, the information provided by scientific modeling and climate analysis can be tailored and thus provide more useful answers to the challenges they are facing. They are also providing a more informed starting point to assess the different options for adaptation, and design robust adaptation pathways, in line with the local needs.
Through continuous training and outreach, UNESCO is developing a global CRIDA community of practice. The project supported these efforts by publishing a CRIDA manual entitled “Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Water Resources Planning & Design for an Uncertain Future” (UNESCO and ICIWaRM, 2018), which constitutes one of its major achievements. In 2020, the Spanish translation of the manual was launched.
Moreover, the project established synergies with other initiatives, most notably CliMWaR (Enhancing Climate Services for Improved Water Resources Management in Vulnerable Regions to Climate Change: Case studies from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean), which implements follow-up activities to elaborate the CRIDA methodology, for example by organizing trainings for regional stakeholder groups in implementing CRIDA and other bottom-up approaches.
Finally, the project initiated the development of a CRIDA case study for Chile by applying the three first steps of the methodology to the Limarí river basin. To finalize the analysis, steps four and five are to be demonstrated in collaboration with the CliMWaR project.
- Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Water Resources Planning & Design for an Uncertain Future (pdf)
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Drought Vulnerability Assessment
Chilean Drought Vulnerability Atlas
The 2007 drought in Chile resulted in a cost of $30 million in mitigation, and had long-lasting effects on rural communities due to the failed harvest and severe water scarcity. As with many cases of extreme meteorological events, the effects and associated mitigation costs were exacerbated due to a lack of preparation prior to this event.
A preliminary vulnerability assessment of agricultural drought in Chile was conducted in the framework of the project, based on relevant drought vulnerability indicators available at national scale. The objective was to deliver a strategic framework for integrated drought risk management and to identify gaps in crucial information for vulnerability characterization. As a result, a comprehensive 9-step methodology to assess drought vulnerability was developed. In brief, the methodology outlines how to define the spatial scale, select indicators for the assessment, process and validate the collected data and finally evaluate the overall vulnerability of the study area. The results were implemented in the Agroclimatic Observatory of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The drought vulnerability assessment of agricultural drought in Chile was followed by the development of a publication entitled “The Chilean Drought Vulnerability Atlas”, which describes the outcomes of the exercise.
Using Groundwater to Assess Drought Vulnerability
Groundwater levels provide an important indicator of the current hydrological situation of a region and can be used to assess the onset of drought. In light of little monitoring and therefore sparse data on groundwater resources available in Chile, a workshop on groundwater monitoring was organized on 9-11 November 2015 with an aim to strengthen the capabilities of Chilean professionals in groundwater monitoring and early warning. It was developed in collaboration with experts from the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London within the framework of the Agroclimatic Observatory.
The Midsummer Drought Atlas for Central America and the Caribbean
The midsummer drought is a reduction of rainfall during the rainy season which typically occurs between July and August, but its characteristics are modulated by the independent or joint effect of climate drivers like El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The midsummer drought occurs in several locations of Central America and the Caribbean and is of paramount importance for water and food security.
The midsummer drought atlas was developed for Central America and the Caribbean by integrating several regional methodologies into a software and using a homogenous data source (the CHIRPS remote sensing data set). The methodology for the development of the publication was discussed during a regional workshop held in Antigua, Guatemala, on 24-28 July 2017. In total, 23 participants received training in the methodology of the midsummer drought atlas, provided suggestions regarding its potential improvements, and contributed to consolidating the regional midsummer drought atlas by using national precipitation data sets.
Afterwards, a one-week hands-on training on midsummer drought characteristics and prediction was organised in Antigua, Guatemala, on 3-7 December 2018. The objectives of the workshop were to (i) strengthen the capacities of the national hydro-meteorological agencies in Central America and the Caribbean, (ii) increase the understanding of the physical mechanisms and characteristics of the midsummer drought and (iii) evaluate the potential for predicting the midsummer drought using a sub seasonal-to-seasonal modelling framework. The workshop was designed to have a strong practical component (approx. 70%) and “real-world exercises”.
Addressing Water Security: Adaptation Strategies and Climate Risk Management
Climate change will affect water resources through its impact on the quantity, variability, timing, form and intensity of precipitation. This will have further profound impacts on water security worldwide, affecting the way in which these water resources should to be managed. As a result, adaptation responses are urgently needed, but the deep uncertainty associated with climate change scenarios bring additional challenges to the medium and long term planning strategy.
Early Warning Capacities Strengthened in Pilot Regions
A new flood and drought monitoring and forecasting system for Chile was developed with a high 0.05° (∼5 km) resolution intended to provide advance warning of impending floods and droughts. This system is based on the Variable Infiltration Capacity and Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning hydrological models and provides daily, freely accessible historic data and forecast ensembles for several key hydrological variables, including soil moisture, evaporation, runoff, and streamflow. To obtain the best possible predictions across all climate zones in Chile, the meteorological forcing is derived by merging a wide range of station, satellite, and atmospheric model data.
The project initiated a new phase in the development of the Chilean Agroclimatic Observatory, in which specific attention was given to bring the drought monitoring and early warning capacities in line with the drought policy of the country. In Peru, a drought observatory was established in line with the proposed design received by the member state, and two capacity building activities were organized to transfer the technology and know-how to the local partners.
Water Harvesting – an Effective Adaptation Strategy
Techniques for harvesting rainwater have been used since first human civilizations. However, the climate risks, combined with the increasing population and water consumption, require these techniques to be more sophisticated and efficient. Additionally, infrastructure for rainwater harvesting has to be installed in areas where there was never any need for them and where experience regarding their use and design is lacking. To increase the resilience to insecure water availability, activities on water harvesting techniques were organised for local stakeholders in different pilot basins in the framework of the water security project.
Remote sensing as a tool to assess water security
Accessible and high quality water data and information is at the basis of good water management and governance. The increased accessibility to technology and the development of innovative tools for water resources monitoring, such as remote sensing, can exponentially improve how we can see and manage water globally. As part of the project, several activities on satellite remote sensing were organised to highlight how remote sensing can support water resources management.