Separate streams? Adapting water resources management to climate change

Separate streams? Adapting water resources management to climate change

How can climate change and water be integrated?

This report identifies how climate change adaptation can be integrated within the water sector to benefit the poor and vulnerable people. It draws on primary research at the community and national level using empirical evidence from Niger and North-East Brazil. It looks at how climate change is impacting the way poor people manage their water resources in the semi-arid environment, their adaptive responses to climate variability, and associated needs to help support these responses. It also looks at the policy and institutional context in each country in relation to tackling water and climate change, the current status of synergy and integration between the two policy areas, and the interface between national policy and practice on the ground.

The authors argue that climate variability can have a real and lasting impact on how people manage their water resources, in the semi-arid environment, affecting rural livelihoods and further reducing the vulnerability of the poorest people. They point out that the pastoralists’ traditional movement patterns in Niger have been disrupted by increasingly variable rainfall leading to a shift in culture, increased pressure on the land and conflict due to uncontrolled migration. Furthermore, in Brazil, there is concern that indigenous knowledge, values and traditional methods of managing water and land, particularly in relation to smallholder rain-fed agriculture, are being lost.

To enhance resilience and adaptation within communities, and to engage with the political systems that affect their water rights, the paper recommends that donors and national governments should do the following:

  • support the establishment of climate risk-based approaches, which address climate variability and climate change, within water policy frameworks
  • devolve the power to manage water to the local level, and ensure the resources are in place for this to be effective
  • ensure that water is not viewed in isolation in policy-making, but is linked explicitly with the management of other natural resources
  • ensure a pro-poor approach to water resources management that encompasses a range of solutions differentiated according to the needs of different groups
  • ensure that climate risk information, where available, is made accessible and is used to inform water planning strategies
  • strengthen adaptive capacity at the local level by supporting localised water resources approaches that are adapting to climate variability
  • respond to the needs of communities as livelihoods and cultures alter as a result of climate change and water scarcity.
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