Describing the linkage between water challenges and climate change, a new UN Water Policy Brief calls for increased investment in improved hydrological data, institutions and governance, education and capacity development, risk assessment and knowledge sharing.
Released July 12, the paper emphasizes the impact of climate change on the variability of the water cycle: weather events create an unpredictability of water availability which, in turn, affects water quality and quantity and further threatens biodiversity and sustainable development.
The increased demand for water to meet population expansion and competition for use has led to additional energy-intensive water pumping, additional transportation and treatment. Less obvious but, equally critical, is the degradation of water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands. The briefing also makes the point that the expanded use of biofuels (intended to mitigate climate change) itself has exacerbated water scarcity.
UN Water suggests that climate policy and planning at both the national and regional levels must integrate climate change and water management. There already are difficult decisions with respect to water allocations. Business as usual is no longer an option and climate considerations and resilience must be at the forefront of all water management decisions.
Finally, the briefing emphasizes the need for investment across the board: technology, policy, education, risk assessment and capacity building. Policies need to include all stakeholders and ensure behavorial change and accountability measures. Adaptation plans need to incorporate targeted strategies that assist lower-income populations – those who are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts – to navigate new conditions.