Irrigation and Drinking Water Security under Climatic Extremes: Empirical Analysis and Policy Lessons

Background

In the past couple of decades, researchers and academicians in the field of climate, water and agriculture have tried to predict future changes in Asia’s climate at various scale from sub-continental level to regional level to basin level, using various assumptions about likely future changes in temperature and by using GCMs and RCMs. However, the model predictions are based on average values, significantly reducing the utility of such predictions for regions that experience high variability in climate factors. The reason is that many a time, the value of the predicted variable (say, % change in rainfall) is less than the % change in the annual rainfall values that the region receives between a dry year and a wet year. In the same way, the model predictions of the impact of climate change on water resources done at basin scales, have also failed to capture the impact of variability in climate on basin hydrology that precipitation alters.

From a purely utilitarian perspective, we need to know how these changes would look like in dry and wet years. From a water management perspective, capturing the current variations in the hydrological conditions in the basin and the stress that they induce on the socio-economic system might appear to be more important than capturing the consequences of the small changes in precipitation on basin yield and water supplies. The former requires complex modeling exercise. This is attempted in the session, through an assessment of climate-induced threat to irrigation water supplies, climate-induced risk in WASH faced by communities. While climate change issues are addressed in the literature only at the macro and national level. But this session addresses the same in the specific context of irrigation and water supply & sanitation, with empirical studies both at the national, provincial and local levels with case studies.

Objectives

The objectives of this workshop are to: 1) provide the theoretical basis for the line of argument that the available research that analyzes the impacts of climate on hydrology, water resources, and water systems, without factoring in the effect of climate variability, are inadequate and often misleading; 2) to empirically show that in the Asian context, the impacts of climate variability on hydrology and water resources, and irrigation, water supply & sanitation systems are far more pronounced than the likely impacts of future change in climate; and 3) to discuss technological, institutional and policy alternatives for reducing these impacts on various competitive use sectors, especially, irrigation, and water supply and sanitation through case studies of river basins in different hydrological setting.

Keywords

Climate variability, Climate change, Climate extremes, Droughts, Floods, WASH risk index, Water accounting, River basins, Basin yield

Structure

The opening presentation of the session will focus on the long-term trends in precipitation and temperature in different regions of Asia, and compare them against inter-annual, inter-seasonal and intra-day variations in climatic parameters, to show how their differential impacts on water resources. From individual presentations, it will provide empirical analysis of stress caused by climate variability on water resources and water availability for various competitive uses in a river basin, with a transposed scenario of climate change.

One of the presentations will present future water balance scenarios for a river basin, which factors in both climatic variability and predicted changes in precipitation. Further, it will show how water management interventions to overcome the current water-related problems in the irrigation sector in the basin have to be adapted to meet the additional challenge of climate change. The presentations will also provide the institutional framework for water resources management in the river basin that could tackle the water management challenges in the wake of climate change, including droughts and floods, and the policy changes.

Another presentation will also provide an analytical framework to assess the risk induced by climate extremes on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). The framework is based on climate-induced water-related hazards, exposure of the WASH system to the hazard, and the vulnerability of the communities to the disruptions in WASH caused by the hazards. The session will also present the results of assessment of WASH risk index carried out for two Indian provinces using this framework.

Another presentation will focus on the action plan for improving the climate resilience of WASH systems for the two most vulnerable districts in an Indian state and the institutional and policy interventions for affecting their implementation.

It is proposed to have a total of 5-6 presentation in the session from the region, of which at least three will be from the convenors. Prof. Mukand Babel, Professor and Coordinator of Water Engineering and Management at the AIT Bangkok, will chair the session.

Hosted by

Mukand Babel

Professor, Water Engineering and Management
Asian Institute of Technology

Dinesh Kumar

Executive Director of Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy in Hyderabad
IRAP

Nitin Bassi

Natural Resource Management specialist
IRAP

Yusuf Kabir

WASH Specialist, Emergency and DRR Focal Point
UNICEF
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