Alliance for Global Water Adaptation; Conservation International; Engility; Environmental Law Institute; ; Stockholm International Water Institute and UNESCO International Hydrological Programme
Stratus; United States Agency for International Development and University of Texas at Austin
Uncertainties from climate change, volatile global trade patterns, and growing tensions in allocating water between cities, industry, farmers, and ecosystems as well as across borders, have cast light on the limitations of conventional approaches. Divisions between disciplines such as engineering, economics, and eco-hydrology have blocked creative solutions. Limited interactions between researchers, practitioners, investors, local communities, and decision makers strain governance systems. Very recently, key groups have begun to catalyse science, policy, and practice into a long-term vision of resilient water security.
This seminar will showcase some of the novel approaches, emerging best practices, and lessons drawn from experience and analysis in both developed and developing countries. Case studies will highlight experiences addressing risks to coastal, high-mountain, and farming communities and challenges from climate-infrastructure mismatches and poor water management. Insights will be drawn from the various stages of climate change adaptation: technical assessment, policy and planning, and project development and implementation. The seminar will actively engage participants in roundtable discussions.
14:00 Opening Remarks and Welcome
14:10 Water Security through Scientific Co-operation: Lessons from Africa, Asia and Latin American Countries. Mr. Anil Mishra, UNESCO-IHP
14:25 A Risk-based Approach to Resilient Water Security and Lessons from OECD's Survey of Water and Adaptation Policies. Ms. Kathleen Dominique, OECD
14:40 Linking Engineering and Ecology with a View to Both the Past and to the Future. Dr. John Matthews, CI/ AGWA
14:55 Coffee Break
15:25 Water Security and Adaptive Measures in Vietnamese Delta Communes. Dr. Jenny Grönwall, SIWI
15:40 Tools and Approaches to Guide Investments in Water Security and Lessons from Projects in the Philippines, Nepal and Peru. Ms. Meghan Hartman, Engility, USA, and Ms. Jessica Troell, ELI, USA
15:55 Panel Discussion.
Facilitator: Mr. John Joyce, SIWI
17:20 Concluding Remarks
The discussions showed that while we are generally good at identifying the problem(s) and possibly the solutions for adaptation and water, we are struggling with implementation, due to lagging technical transfer, lack of institutional capacity and financing, and challenges in accounting for uncertainty. The panel concluded that science doesn’t have all answers.
On a more optimistic note, the seminar did achieve its objective of sharing new knowledge and new practices. The panel presented several concrete new examples:
Despite differing academic backgrounds and perspectives, all the presentations have in common the need for adaptive learning and flexible systems. They all emphasized the need to avoid locking ourselves into corners or bouncing back to the same state, but instead the importance of adapting to continuous change within climate, the environment, and non-climate factors.
The two case studies showed the need for adaptive learning. We often hear that “farmers have lived for long time and learned to adapt to extremes, so they should know how to do this”. But, the future holds new conditions, extremes and uncertainties. Examples from SIWI’s work in Vietnam showed that even within one village the awareness and responses to weather extremes can vary. When we work at local scales we find different types of problems, difficulties distinguishing local environmental change from larger scale changes, or separating local climate/non-climate issues. Examples from Engility’s work showed that several factors simultaneously cause water stress. Both case studies reminded us that it takes time to adapt, to implement policies at the local levels and to improve technological development. Both the example from OECD’s work in the Netherlands and SIWI’s example from Vietnam showed that you can “build away” risk awareness - if people trust the governments to ensure safety, they can forget that they are exposed to risks.
The presentations also highlighted the demand for translation of science into a common language, to both the public and policy makers. AGWA’s work exemplified the contrasting ecological and engineering views on resilience. The panel stressed, “be flexible with definitions”, accept a wider understanding of resilience. However, perhaps as we gradually integrate disciplines, and given that climate change and water security is interdisciplinary, we may also need to develop and redefine terminology further to help build a common understanding. Also, given the number of case studies and practical examples that exist, it could be valuable to bring this experience together and build on it.
To summarise, the panel has highlighted that implementation of adaptation pathways and water security solutions need to be context specific at the local level, and as they span over larger spatial scales and transboundary levels more generalisable for international scales.