Volume 29, Issue 2

June 2013
Thematic Issue on Water Management and Climate Change: Dealing With Uncertainties

Editorial »
Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas

Research Article

Adapting to climate change: towards societal water security in dry-climate countries

Malin Falkenmark
SIWI and Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden

Contact: Malin Falkenmark | Email: malin.falkenmark@siwi.org


Water security needs priority in adaptation to global change. Most vulnerable will be the semi-arid tropics and subtropics, home of the majority of poor and populations. Policies have to distinguish between dry spells, interannual droughts and long-term climate aridification. Four contrasting situations are distinguished with different water-scarcity dilemmas to cope with. Some countries, where the climate is getting drier, will have to adapt their water policy to sharpening water shortage. In many developing countries it will be wise to go for win-win approaches by picking the low-hanging fruit, i.e. taking measures needed in any case. A fundamental component of adaptive management will be social learning to help people recognize their interdependence and differences. Rethinking will be needed regarding how we manage water for agricultural production, integrating solutions with domestic, industrial and environmental uses. Adaptation to global change will benefit from basin management plans, defining medium- and long-term objectives. Conceptual clarity will be increasingly essential. Water – so vital in the life support system – needs to be entered into climate change convention activities.

Pages: 123-136


Research Article

Australian water policy in a climate change context: some reflections

James Horne
James Horne and Associates, Australia

Contact: James Horne | Email: jameshorne@iinet.net.au


This paper focuses on Australian water reform in a climate change context over the period between mid-2006 and end 2011, with a particular focus on the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). In Australia, during this period, the potential impacts from climate change became more central to the policy debate, and the implementation of what can be said to be a large-scale climate change adaptation programme commenced. The paper outlines the policy framework adopted by the government of the day and then draws out some of the key issues for water management against this background, and the attendant increased uncertainty.

Pages: 137-151


Research Article

Characterizing the water extremes of the new century in the US South-west: a comprehensive assessment from state-of-the-art climate model projections 

Aleix Serrat-Capdevilaa, Juan B. Valdesa, Francina Domínguezb and Seshadri Rajagopalc
aInternational Center for Integrated Water Resources Management (UNESCO) and Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA; bDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona, USA; cDesert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada, USA

Contact: Juan B. Valdes | Email: jvaldes@email.arizona.edu


The impact of climate change scenarios in the hydrology of the Verde River basin (Arizona) is analyzed using an ensemble of downscaled climate model results, SPI analysis, and two hydrologic models of different complexity. To assess model uncertainty, 47 ensemble members combining simulations from 16 global climate models and 3 emission scenarios were used to provide an uncertainty envelope in the hydrologic variables. The analysis shows that simple lumped models and more complex distributed runoff models can yield similar results. Results show that under all scenarios, the distribution functions of hydrologic states will shift towards lower values and droughts will progressively become more frequent, longer and more intense.

Pages: 152-171


Research Article

Impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle in Mexico 

Felipe I. Arreguín-Cortés and Mario López-Pérez
National Water Commission (CONAGUA), Mexico City, Mexico

Contact: Felipe I. Arreguín-Cortés | Email: felipe.arreguin@conagua.gob.mx


Mexico is implementing policies and actions aimed at mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change without compromising the country’s development process. The plan is to reduce vulnerability through the implementation of the Special Programme on Climate Change 2009–2012, which includes 105 objectives and 294 goals shared among a number of national institutions. The National Water Commission (CONAGUA) is responsible for measuring the most important variables of the hydrological cycle and addressing the impact of climate change. As such, CONAGUA is in charge of attaining 41 of the 294 goals stated in the Special Programme on Climate Change, which include 37 of the goals set in the National Water Programme 2007–2012 (PNH). It is expected that since a great number of goals are shared by both schemes this can help assure their fulfilment and prove useful in working towards the sustainable use of water, mindful of climate change considerations.

Pages: 172-183


Research Article

Climate change projections of streamflow in the Iberian peninsula

Domingo F. Rasilla, Carolina Garmendia and Juan Carlos García-Codron
Grupo de Investigación GIMENA, Departamento de Geografía, Urbanismo y Ordenación del Territorio, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain

Contact: Domingo F. Rasilla | Email: domingo.rasilla@unican.es


This contribution analyzes the impact on Iberian water resources of anthropogenic climatic change, using the output from four simulations obtained from two coupled general circulationmodels (HadCM2 and PCM) under the A2andB2 emissions scenarios. The results show that the magnitude of those impacts will depend on the level of global warming and the geographical characteristics of each watershed, although a reduction in runoff, principally in spring and summer, and a change in the timing of the maximum discharge, especially in high-altitude basins, will be two the most noteworthy features.

Pages: 184-200


Research Article

Downscaled climate change projections over Spain: application to water resources

P. Ramosa, E. Petiscob, J.M. Martínb and E. Rodríguezb
aDelegación Territorial en Andalucía, Ceuta y Melilla, Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET), Sevilla, Spain; bServicios Centrales, Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET), Madrid, Spain

Contact: E. Rodríguez | Email: erodriguezc@aemet.es


Evaluation of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change for sectors sensitive to climate conditions requires climate change projections with adequate resolution, both spatial and temporal. These projections are affected by uncertainties coming from a number of sources. The probabilistic approach is the natural framework for integrating uncertainties of diverse origin in the estimation of climate evolution. Two state-of-the-art data-sets are presented, providing downscaled climate change projections over Spain based on ensembles of projections for a variety of emission scenarios, global models and downscaling techniques. Results are applied to the Spanish region of Aragón as an example of the estimation of mean and extreme precipitation changes for the twenty-first century and their uncertainty.

Pages: 201-218


Research Article

The application of hydrological planning as a climate change adaptation tool in the Ebro basin

Miguel Ángel García-Vera
Hydrographic Confederation of the Ebro, Zaragoza, Spain

Contact: Miguel Ángel García-Vera | Email: mgarciave@chebro.es


This paper presents an example of how expected climate change effects have been factored into hydrological planning for the Ebro River basin in Spain. Between now and 2030, a 5% reduction in the basin’s water resources is foreseen, along with a drop in the hydrographs’ snow component and an increase in dry periods. This article explores the several measures to help reduce the basin’s vulnerability to climate change as considered in the technical component of the Ebro Basin Hydrological Plan 2010–2015. These adaptation tools include wastewater treatment, control of water intakes, water reuse, agro-environmental measures, modernization of irrigated areas, improvement of urban water supplies, removal of contaminated sediments, improvement of regulation infrastructure to ensure water supply and control inundations, optimization of hydroelectric exploitation, and improvement of drought and flood management.

Pages: 219-236


Research Article

Measures against climate change and its impacts on water resources in Greece

Evangelos A. Baltas
Department of Hydraulics, Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, School of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Contact: Evangelos A. Baltas | Email: baltas@agro.auth.gr


This paper examines the actions toward the reduction of green house gas emissions to the atmosphere that Greece has implemented to comply with international conventions and the Kyoto Protocol. It also concerns the analysis and processing of climate variables and the assessment of the impact of climate change on water resources in Northern Greece and on some critical water management issues, such as reservoir storage and water supply for agriculture and domestic use. Initially, a monthly conceptual water balance model was applied to estimate runoff values in the entrance of the Polyfyto reservoir under the UKHI equilibrium scenario referring to the year 2100. It was found that the mean annual runoff, mean winter runoff and summer runoff values will be reduced. Increases of the risks associated with the annual quantities of water supply have been observed.

Pages: 237-249


State-of-the-art reviews

Water and disasters: a review and analysis of policy aspects

Chennat Gopalakrishnan
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA

Contact: Chennat Gopalakrishnan | Email: chennat@hawaii.edu


Recent years have witnessed a significant increase in the human and economic impacts of water disasters. During 2000–2010, they accounted for almost 90% of all natural disasters, 96% of the people affected (2.4 billion) and 76% of the economic damages (approximately USD1 trillion) caused by natural disasters globally. It is ironic that despite the centrality of water disasters, relatively little attention has been paid to them in the discourse on water resources. Against this backdrop, five broad groups of water policies – risk management, vulnerability assessment, capacity building and resilience, disaster risk reduction-development linkage and institutional design – were examined to determine their adequacy and effectiveness in successfully dealing with water disasters. It was found that most policies have serious shortcomings that need to be addressed. Drawing on this study, a number of specific policy recommendations are offered to correct these deficiencies. The study has further found that there is an urgent need to generate research-grounded data to support informed policy making on water disasters. With this in view, five priority research areas have been identified.

Pages: 250-271


State-of-the-art reviews

Managing drought risk in water supply systems in Europe: a review

Giuseppe Rossi and Antonino Cancelliere
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Catania, Italy

Contact: Giuseppe Rossi | Email: grossi@dica.unict.it


The frequent occurrence of drought and the increasing severity of its impacts make the traditional emergency approach inadequate and call for a risk-management approach, particularly in order to reduce water shortages in water supply systems. This paper attempts to provide a review of criteria, methods and tools for the management of drought risk in water systems, beginning with a discussion of legislative and institutional frameworks for coping with drought; objectives and contents of drought-planning instruments (at strategic, tactical and emergency levels) are then discussed. The review focuses on: 1. the drought indices to be used for an effective monitoring and early warning system; 2. the methods for assessing the risk of water shortage due to drought; and 3. the measures for reducing societal vulnerability to droughts and mitigating their impacts. Better coordination of drought-preparedness planning tasks, adaptive operation of water supply systems to prevent severe shortages, and more extensive use of early drought warning are suggested. Further research needs are identified.

Pages: 272-289


Book Review

The Singapore Water Story »