Managing Water Resources Variability and Risks for Increased Resilience
Empowering water policy and decisions for a sustainable society – the UNU-INWEH initiative for global water-related disaster risk reduction.
Water variability is a major impediment to sustainable development. Natural and man-made interventions trigger water variability, creating catastrophic situations that cause thousands of deaths annually and billions in losses for national economies. The average annual global economic loss from floods and drought is over $40 billion, across all economic sectors. This figure is projected to increase to $200 – 400 billion by 2030, according to various estimates. This is largely due to the increasing frequency and severity of water extremes, attributed to climate change. In addition to floods, droughts and other natural water-related disasters, other real risks to countries` water resources are the failures of aging water infrastructures, explosions of chemical, biological or nuclear stockpiles, and the potential threats from water-focused terrorism, these emerging risks need to be understood and quantified.
Current practices of counteracting and managing increasing levels of water variability, its consequences, and other water-related risks are far from adequate. New approaches are necessary to ensure optimal planning, investment and national risk assessment. At the same time, lessons need to be distilled from previous researches and extreme water events to know why and where specific risk and disaster-reduction interventions worked or did not, what is their effectiveness, the value for money or return on investment of the interventions and the overall value of these activities in terms of sustainable development, in the UN Member States. The range of solutions that policy makers and planners can apply includes (but notlimited to):
• Better understanding and quantification of risks related to water variability extremes, and other water-related risks, their potential threats to countries and communities, and assessment of the effectiveness of various risk and disaster reduction
• Technical and economic appraisal and design of diverse surface-subsurface water storage ‘portfolios’, combining both man-made (‘grey’) and natural (‘green’) infrastructure to manage water resources variability in river basins, with a specific focus on subsurface water storage to manage both floods and drought;
• Mainstreaming the concepts of ecosystem services (ESS), livelihoods diversification, and disease control into planning and management of ‘grey’ water storage, and guiding more investment to these activities;
• Identifying and addressing resource limitations, knowledge gaps and psychological barriers for communities`, local governments` and other stakeholders’ – that slow implementation of risk reduction strategies.
The project runs during 2018-2019 and is anticipated to evolve into a larger initiative from 2020.