The way we manage water resources can help us tackle climate change in two ways,” says Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): “First, by coordinating across sectors we can reduce the impacts of floods and droughts, adapt to the expected increase in unpredictability and ensure communities and businesses have the water they need to thrive. And second, we can reduce harmful emissions by making water supply more sustainable.”
National and regional policy and planning must view water management through a climate resilience lens. Increased investment is needed to improve hydrological data, institutions and governance, education and capacity development, risk assessment and knowledge sharing. Crucially, lower-income populations, who are disproportionally affected by climate change, must be reached through targeted strategies that help them cope with new conditions.
Many countries and international river basin authorities are already implementing solutions that meet integrated water and climate challenges, but more needs to be done.
Limiting global warming to 1,5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, compared to 2 degrees, can have huge implications on water resources as it may reduce the proportion of the world’s population exposed to an increase in water stress by climate change by up to 50%. “Uncertainty about the future cannot be an excuse for inaction today,” says Mr. Houngbo. “We cannot afford to wait to make water management more climate resilient and sustainable. We have the tools, methods and financing mechanisms at our disposal. We must act now.”