Third World Centre for Water Management

Journals

Volume 24, Issue 2

Special Issue: Closed Basins-Highlighting a Blind Spot

ONLINE ACCESS TO THIS ISSUE


WAKE UP TO REALITIES OF RIVER BASIN CLOSURE (pp. 201-215)

Malin Falkenmarka and David Moldenb

aStockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Stockholm, Sweden; bInternational Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka

Contact: Malin Falkenmark, e-mail: Malin.Falkenmark@siwi.org

Abstract: As societies develop, river basin water resources are increasingly controlled, diverted and consumed for agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes, hence reducing the ability to meet the growing demands from various sectors and interests. Basins are closed when additional water commitments for domestic, industrial, agricultural or environmental uses cannot be met during all or part of a year. Basin closure is already prevalent in the world today, with 1.4 billion living in areas that have to deal with the situation. Societies may adapt to this in various ways, with reallocation of water, demand management or interbasin transfers as the primary means of dealing with the problem. However, ‘quick-fix’ measures such as further groundwater or surface water exploitation or ill-planned water appropriation that unfairly reallocates water from one user are common. Symptoms of poorly managed closed basins include groundwater overdraft, limited or no environmental flows, pollution and inequitable allocation of water. Thus, a pertinent question is whether there will be a hard or soft landing in closed basins—will the resource base fail to meet basic requirements causing undue hardship, or can societies adapt to achieving a soft landing. Surprisingly, limited attention has been given today to this urgent water situation.


WHY ENOUGH IS NEVER ENOUGH: THE SOCIETAL DETERMINANTS OF RIVER BASIN CLOSURE (pp. 217-226)

Francois Molle, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Montpellier, France

E-mail: f.molle@cgiar.org

Abstract: Manifestations of water scarcity are increasingly frequent, even in regions with temperate climates and endowed with good water resources. This paper argues that several ’bad good reasons’ and mechanisms are at work to generate ’overbuilt basins’, whereby the development of infrastructural resources invariably tends to outstrip available resources. Eight main drivers of basin overbuilding are proposed and discussed. Despite its crucial importance and ubiquity, this phenomenon is often overlooked. Unpacking the reasons why ’enough is never enough’, i.e. why water resources become over-committed and river basins overbuilt, is critical if these mechanisms are to be countered.


BASIN CLOSURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL FLOW REQUIREMENTS (pp. 227-233)

Vladimir Smakhtin, International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

E-mail: v.smakhtin@cgiar.org

Abstract: A river basin is referred to as ‘closed’ when all its river flow is allocated to different uses. Water requirements of freshwater dependent ecosystems, often referred to as ‘environmental flow requirements’, only recently started to receive attention. This ‘user’ is still often neglected in river basin management. This paper discusses the place of environmental flow requirements in basin water resources, examines a global pattern of closed/closing river basins and advocates the need to set environmental requirements in advance of major basin developments. It is also suggested that to ensure sustainable water resources development in the future, it is necessary to revise the content of ‘basin closure’ by explicitly introducing environmental flow requirements into basin water management and supporting it with relevant policies.


FUTURE BIOMASS ENERGY SUPPLY: THE CONSUMPTIVE WATER USE PERSPECTIVE (pp. 235-245)

Göran Berndes, Department of Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden

Contact: Göran Berndes, e-mail: goran.berndes@chalmers.se

Abstract: There are major expectations that bioenergy will supply large amounts of CO2 neutral energy for the future. A large-scale expansion of energy crop production would lead to a large increase in evapotranspiration appropriation for human uses, potentially as large as the present evapotranspiration from global cropland. In some countries this could lead to further enhancement of an already stressed water situation. However, there are also countries where such impacts are less likely to occur. Studies that assess bioenergy potentials need to consider restrictions from competing demand for water resources. Studies of the future state of water availability and use need to include the possibility of new high demands for water from a growing bioenergy sector.


DEALING WITH CLOSED BASINS: THE CASE OF THE LOWER JORDAN RIVER BASIN (pp. 247-263)

Jean-Philippe Venota, Francoise Molleb and Remy Courcierc

aInternational Water Management Institute (IWMI), Hyderabad, India, and Laboratoire Gecko, University of Paris X-Nanterre, France; bInstitut de Recherche pour le Développement Centre, Montpellier, France; cFormerly Head of the MREA (French Regional Mission for Water and Agriculture) of the French Embassy Amman, Jordan

Contact: Jean-Philippe Venot, e-mail: j.venot@cgiar.org

Abstract: During the last 50 years, the Lower Jordan river basin experienced a rapid and comprehensive process of development of its rare water resources. This led to its progressive closure; almost no water is left that can be mobilized and used while demand, notably in urban areas, keeps increasing. Despite the need to consider demand management options to alleviate the Jordanian water crisis, the potential of these options appears limited in the mid-term; the growing demand of the population and the sustaining of agriculture are unlikely to be met without supply augmentation measures which will reopen the basin.


MEETING THE BASIN CLOSURE OF THE YELLOW RIVER IN CHINA (pp. 265-274)

Hong Yanga and Shaofeng Jiab

aSwiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology, Duebendorf, Switzerland; bInstitute of Geographical Science and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Contact: Hong Yang, e-mail: hong.yang@eawag.ch

Abstract: Since the 1950s, the major gauging stations along the Yellow river have recorded a trend of decline in measured discharge. During the 1990s, the Yellow river once became seasonal and sent no water to the sea for several months in a year. This study investigates changes in the availability of water resources and water use at different sections of the Yellow river and in different economic sectors in the basin. Some hard and soft landing measures in dealing with basin closure are introduced and policy implications regarding the reallocation of water resources are addressed.


NEGOTIATING SURFACE WATER ALLOCATIONS TO ACHIEVE A SOFT LANDING IN THE CLOSED LERMA-CHAPALA BASIN, MEXICO (pp. 275-288)

Philippus Westera, Sergio Vargas-Velazquezb, Eric Mollardc and Paula Silva Ochoad

aIrrigation and Water Engineering Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands; bInstituto Mexicano de Tecnología del Agua, Morelos, México; cInstitut de Recherche pour le Développement, Montpellier, France; dCH2MHILL, Water Business Group, San Diego, CA, USA

Contact: Philippus Wester, e-mail: flip.wester@wur.nl

Abstract: The Lerma-Chapala basin exemplifies the challenges posed by basin closure, where surface water allocation mechanisms, lack of environmental flows and access to water are critical issues. Underlying these issues is a need for accurate water accounting that is transparent and publicly available. This paper describes basin closure in the Lerma-Chapala basin, and focuses on negotiation processes surrounding surface water allocation mechanisms. Although significant attempts have been made to achieve a ‘soft landing’, the basin is still faced with water overexploitation, environmental degradation, and a complicated transition from centralized water management to one in which states and water users have a larger say.


PLANNED AND UNPLANNED WATER USE IN A CLOSED SOUTH INDIAN BASIN (pp. 289-304)

Mats Lannerstad, Department of Water and Environmental Studies, Linköping University

E-mail: mats@lannerstad.com

Abstract: Intensive irrigation development brought the Bhavani basin in southern India to ‘allocation closure’ in the 1950s, with all available surface water being assigned to various uses. In spite of this, policies and investments have supported further intensified water use, some well planned, but many unplanned from a basin perspective. At present, individuals acting independently and domestic water schemes are important drivers. The basin is moving towards ‘hydrologic closure’, with little water leaving the basin. While agriculture in the basin is showing no signs of collapse, people are demanding more water, leading to a ‘perception-wise’ closure. The changes in use and perception underscore the need for a basin-wide perspective that considers consumptive water use as well as river diversions.


BASIN CLOSURE AND ISSUES OF SCALE: THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN HYDROPOLITICAL COMPLEX (pp. 305-318)

Anthony R. Turton and Peter J. Ashton, CSIR-Natural Resources and the Environment, Pretoria, South Africa

Contact: Anthony R. Turton, e-mail: aturton@csir.co.za

Abstract: Southern African countries face serious regional water scarcity constraints to economic growth and development. The water resources in the four most economically diverse countries—South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe—are approaching closure at the national level. Investigations using the concept of a Hydropolitical Complex, rather than the river basin alone, as the unit of analysis have produced a more subtle understanding of how hydrologically-constrained states are dealing with the problem. The Southern African Hydropolitical Complex (SAHPC) case suggests that where states have water constraints to future economic development options, then the incentives to seek consensual management options are high.

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