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Background & Motivation: What does Climate have to offer? Water and CRM Technical Workshop and Training Addis Ababa, June 30 – July 2, 2009 Credits: IRI, Upmanu Lall, Casey Brown, Dave Watkins.

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Background & Motivation:

What does Climate have to offer?

Water and CRM Technical Workshop and Training

Addis Ababa, June 30 – July 2, 2009

Credits: IRI, Upmanu Lall, Casey Brown, Dave Watkins


“Fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict & wars in the future.”

Kofi Annan, March 2001

260 international basins: +/- tensions: longstanding, always, growing with demand

Source: Grey & Sadoff, World Bank


Semi-Arid and Arid Sub-Tropics and Tropics & Areas w/ High Population Density

In the 20th century the world population tripled – while water use multiplied six-fold!

By 2025 two thirds of the people in the world are expected to live in areas of water shortage or stress.


Climate change or just people?

Source: Vorosmarty et al 2000


 Pop +  Consumption=  Demand

  • 54% of annual available fresh water is currently being used world-wide
  • Assuming current consumption, 70% will be used due to population growth alone by 2025.
  • For developed country per capita consumption 90% will be used by 2025.

1.7 x decrease

4.5 x decrease

7.5 x decrease

Water Availability



Development Trajectories in River Basins





The Message

  • An imminent freshwater crisis
    • Demand > Supply
    • Access to safe drinking water: currently poor
    • High variability in supply  Major investments needed for growth
    • Potential for trans-boundary conflict
    • Climate Change: Cause or Effect? Water is the major uncertainty

The Challenge

  • Social and institutional factors often dictate resource management strategies
  • Climate is a major determinant of risk
  • As understanding of climate improves, how can we adapt traditional management strategies to use this new information to reduce societal risk and improve system resilience ?
  • How do we balance the needs of a local resource manager with products that convey large scale, technical and yet uncertain information ?
  • How do we judge failure or success ?

The Motivation

  • Adaptation to climate change for water resources will require a change from a business as usual approach
  • The climate is no longer stationary with increasing climate variability and changing normals
  • The temporal structure to variability is not static
  • Risk varies  different needs
  • New climate science is needed for water resource managers






Human Activity

Managing Water Resource Systems

  • Balance Water Supply and Demand
  • Historical rules for resource allocation
  • How much, and when should these rules be modified ?
  • How do we assess and communicate potential impacts of action & inaction ?

Well Field

Electric Grid

Dam 1

Dam 2

Irrigated Farms

Irrigated Farms

Dam 3

New City

Muddy River


The Question

What can Water Resource Managers do?

Climate Risk Management (CRM)


Climate Risk Management

One definition: “CRM focuses on pressing issues of here and now while factoring in projected changes” (WB)

Protecting against climate hazards so climate opportunities can be utilized

Methodology to increase decision-making as a major pathway to adaptation for climate change by leveraging climate science


Key Issues

  • How should climate change be addressed?
    • It’s an open research question
    • Much can be gained by learning from those actively engaging the concept of nonstationarity of climate in practice. Case studies a key start.
  • Recommend a technical assessment with weaknesses exposed.
    • Understanding of climate impacts on water systems is the starting point
    • Historical data remains the most important source of climate information for any water system
    • Solutions/adaptations should be identified, evaluated and implemented via IWRM approach

Integrating Management of Climate Risks

An operational definition:

1. Identify hazards associated with climate risks (of all time scales) to the water system

2. Characterize the climate risks

3. Propose/Assess portfolio of solutions/adaptations to key climate (and other) risks


Integrating Management of Climate Risks

1. Identify hazards associated with climate risk to

the water system

• What are the key climate challenges that the system faces now (e.g., frequent drought, flood events, variable flows)

• What damages occur as functions of these events?

• Where are the impacts felt? Are there distributional effects? Is the environment considered/protected?

• Are there opportunity losses due to risk aversion associated with current climate risks?


Integrating Management of Climate Risks

2. Characterize hydroclimatic risk

• What are the probabilities, recurrence periods, etc. of hazard causing events

• Is there spatial or temporal structure?

• Are there probable/predictable changes expected?

• What are the most plausible future scenarios and the uncertainty associated with them?

• How do these risks compare to the social, economic, demographic and environmental challenges the water system faces (severity, uncertainty)?


Integrating Management of Climate Risks

3. Propose/Assess portfolio of solutions/adaptations to

Climate Risks

• Incorporate uncertainty of climate futures in the decision process

• May favor flexibility over structure (soft vs hard approaches)

• Solutions have spatial and temporal characteristics that modulate appropriateness based on the climate risks

• Risk solutions are dependent on timeframe of analysis:

- Operational – fixed infrastructure, certain sunk costs

- Planning – infrastructure and other system decisions



  • Move from Static to Dynamic Risk Management
      • Changing climate
      • Changing goals
      • Changing population demographics and landscape
  • “Hard” and “Soft” Technologies
      • Design & Operation of Structures
      • Allocation Rules and Water Rights
      • Risk Sharing and Reduction Strategies
  • Develop ideas through examples at multiple scales


  • Design flexible, adaptable systems – reliability no longer assured
  • Suite of options:
      • Infrastructure: important, but effective range likely exceeded
      • Economic instruments: water banks, options, contracts
      • Seasonal forecasts
      • Flexible operating rules
      • Insurance
      • Characterize uncertainties / probabilities
  • Redundancy in the system
  • Continuous system performance
  • Good results payoff in long run


Can we leverage applications of climate science to reduce (exploit) negative (positive) impacts of climate variability?


Application - Forecasts

  • Reservoirs operated without forecasts in risk averse mode
        • Anticipating drought of record in every year
        • Water is kept in the reservoir as a reserve for a drought, instead of being delivered to irrigators or being used for hydroelectricity production
  • Forecasts provide enhanced estimate of drought risk
        • Identifying opportunities in years when drought risk is low (eg La Niña)

Source: C. Brown (IRI)




Application - Forecasts

Historical Inflow Observations

Sea Surface Temperatures

Photo: MWSS

Global Climate Model

Cross-Validated Model



Forecast Inflow for OND 2002

Source: B. Lyon


Application - Forecasts

Probability of exceeding a seasonal rainfall threshold

Choose parameter, quantity (i.e., number of dry spells of 7 or more days), and statistic of interest (i.e. probability of exceedance)


Application - Health

Suitability for Malaria Transmission


Application - Agriculture

Index Insurance for Crops


relevant variables:

eg: reservoir inflowdry spell or flood risk


“prob. of exceedance”

* historical

* predictive

* real-time monitoring

Summarizing Climate into Risk Management

= tailored probabilistic climate information within a specific institutional and policy setting