Protecting water resources should rank among the top priorities of a global deal to mitigate climate change as it will “secure the basis for food, energy, health and economic development, thereby ensuring a nation’s ability to thrive,” write Dr. Mark Smith, head of the Water Programme IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Dr. Ger Bergkamp, director general of the World Water Council, in a March paper.
“Water stands at the centre of debate as the medium for action [on climate change],” the authors argue, declaring that all impacts of climate change, from Amazonian drought to Australia’s wildfires, share “water as a common denominator”.
“Due to increased atmospheric water vapour content, arid regions will expand while growing drier, even as humid lands fall prone to floods,” they observe.
Smith and Bergkamp thus argue that climate adaptation “translates to a large extent into water adaptation”.
Developing an effective water policy will mean “increasing supply and decreasing demand,” their paper argues, stating that more should be done to “use existing water infrastructure to work with […] nature’s increasingly unpredictable forces” and that economic incentives should be harnessed to “reduce domestic, industrial and agricultural consumption”.
To make communities more “resilient and climate proof”, the authors claim that people must “know what they need to do to cope with extreme change, where to efficiently allocate resources, and how to integrate their families, tribal leaders and representatives toward mutually beneficial outcomes”.
As for high-level help, “leaders and policies must connect across scales, link with global efforts [and] meet needs as they arise,” Smith and Bergkamp argue.
“Coordinated focus on water will empower all people to reduce their vulnerability, and strengthen national resilience during the tumultuous years ahead,” they conclude.