The science is clear: the global climate change crisis is increasing variability in the water cycle, thus reducing the predictability of water availability and demand, affecting water quality, exacerbating water scarcity and threatening sustainable development worldwide.
Growing demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment, and has contributed to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands. And, some climate change mitigation measures, such as the expanded use of biofuels, are further exacerbating water scarcity.
National and regional climate policy and planning must take an integrated approach to climate change and water management. Increased water stress and meeting future demand will require increasingly tough decisions about how to allocate water resources among competing water uses, including for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities. If a sustainable future is to be created, continuing along a “business as usual” pathway is no longer an option, and water management needs to be scrutinized through a climate-resilience lens.
Increased investment is needed in improving hydrological data, institutions and governance, education and capacity development, risk assessment and knowledge-sharing. Policies need to ensure the representation, participation, behavioural change and accountability of all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society. 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.
There are also significant co-benefits to managing climate and water in a more coordinated and sustainable manner. Solutions for addressing the above integrated challenges are available and are being implemented by an increasing number of countries and international river basin authorities.
UN-Water Policy Briefs provide short and informative analyses on the most pressing freshwater-related issues that draw upon the combined expertise of the United Nations system. These Briefs can be used for substantive discussions and provide policy recommendations for sustainable management of water and sanitation.