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Document Abstract
Published: 1 Sep 2011

Climate change, water resources and WASH: a scoping study

Exploring the links between climate change, water resources and water and sanitation services, with a focus on SSA and South Asia
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It has been predicted that water will be the primary medium through which early climate change impacts will be felt by people, ecosystems and economies. However, scientific analysis and water policy do not appear to be giving enough attention to impacts on water resources and water-dependent services. This report endeavours to fill in some of the gaps. Its broad objectives are to:
  • summarise current understanding of climate change projections and scenarios, and the impacts climate change may have on water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • discuss implications for policy and practice in terms of funding for climate change adaptation at an international level and the planning and implementation of WASH interventions at a community level.
The report contains the following key messages:
  • climate warming is now beyond doubt, with significant increases in global mean air temperature, sea surface temperature and sea level rise
  • climate change is expected to alter hydrological regimes of freshwater availability and quality
  • climate change is likely to change the severity and magnitude of the basic nature of threats to water supply and sanitation technologies
  • more intense rainfall will result in increased turbidity of surface water leading to an increase in water-borne disease
  • climate change raises issues of equity and sustainability in service provision and access for the poorest and most vulnerable groups.
The report makes the following recommendations:
  • adaptation to the impacts of current and future climate change is unavoidable and should be made an essential component of any climate change policy
  • to promote pro-poor adaptation, existing approaches such as Water Safety Planning could be extended to include screening for climate change risks and impacts using toolkits like CRiSTAL which draws a Sustainable Livelihoods Framework
  • from lessons learnt, there is the need for a wide-reaching communication strategy, interventions that build on existing coping strategies, broad-based livelihood improvement and vulnerability reduction, and the importance of national and local ‘political’ support
  • re-focusing the debate on water security offers a way forward, emphasising the importance of resource access and entitlements as well as water availability, quality, distribution and reliability.
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R. Calow (ed); H. Bonsor (ed); L. Jones (ed)

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