Have you added water management to your solutions for adaptation to climate change?
Over two decades of research and experience have convinced us that technical solutions by themselves are of no practical use to water managers or water users unless they are supported by people with power to make decisions and ensure that solutions are integrated into governance and institutional processes.
IWMI’s research suggests that the following agricultural and water management actions are appropriate “no regrets” responses to climate change:
Action Item 1. Transform water governance
In all forms of governance, policy determines action. Climate change impels us to base adaptation policy advice on realistic assessments of socioeconomic, cultural and political realities.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: Policy analysis – water governance – institutional change – people’s participation – learning alliances
Action Item 2. Revisit water storage
Flexible water storage options: Water storage options, from ensembles of small reservoirs to natural wetlands, are among the most practical, immediate and cost-effective responses to existing variability and climate-induced water scarcity.
Soil management: Soil moisture is part of the hydrological cycle. It acts as an interface between runoff, evapotranspiration and infiltration into groundwater aquifers. Farming practices that retain the right amount of soil moisture are an important adaptation strategy.
Groundwater banking: Discharge from hydropower dams to recharge aquifers helps ensure that farmers and pastoralists have sufficient and reliable supplies of water under increasingly variable and severe drought conditions.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: Water storage planning and managment – wetlands – soil improvement – conservation tillage practices – groundwater management
Action Item 3. Manage water demand
Economic incentives for reducing water use: Managing water more effectively means increasing farm yields and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Water pricing currently bears little or no relationship to water scarcity or the true cost of water. Water pricing, allocation, and water rights are effective but underused tools to manage demand.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: Assessing the impact of water pricing on agricultural water use and farmers’ profits – identifying key issues in water pricing reforms – water rights and water allocation incentives – water pricing policies and water demand management for sustainable use of water resources
Action Item 4. Increase water productivity
It is no coincidence that poverty and food insecurity are highest where water productivity is lowest. Increasing water productivity is an effective means of intensifying agricultural production, improving community resilience and reducing the environmental degradation that exacerbates climate change.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: Basin-level water allocation policies – water productivity technologies and practices – agro-ecosystems integration – wastewater use
Action Item 5. Produce more food per unit of water
60% of the world’s food is produced on rainfed cropland. We know that climate change will alter rainfall patterns, and that constitutes a major threat to our food supply and livelihoods.
Rainfed irrigation: Small investments for supplemental irrigation in combination with improved soil, nutrient and crop management can more than double water productivity and yields in small-scale rainfed agriculture. Upgrading rainfed agriculture means a new era of investment in the continuum between rainfed and irrigated agriculture.
Revitalize irrigation: Irrigation reform is the only viable option for ensuring food security for many of the countries most directly affected by climate change. A large portion of our future food requirements can be met if we revitalize investment and adapt our engineering approaches and management practices in irrigated agriculture.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: water productivity – land and water management – irrigation system management and reform.
Action Item 6. Monitor water and provide feedback
Information for adaptive management: Adapting to changes in water availability and seasonal distribution is possible, but we need to know the direction and magnitude of these potential changes with some degree of certainty. One way to do this is to link existing hydrological models to climate change models to make better predictions and guide policy. Many regions remain poorly gauged and existing data collection networks are in decline with limited access to data. We need to address the many technical, administrative, cultural and political barriers to data sharing and exchange.
Explore IWMI’s solutions for: Modelling – GIS & Remote Sensing – data management tools and resources.
Don’t stop now!
Learn more about IWMI solutions or talk about your ideas with:
Peter McCornick, Deputy Director General, p.mccornick [at] cgiar.org
Vladimir Smakhtin, Theme Leader Water Availability and Access, v.smakhtin [at] cgiar.org
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