Planning for the future: collaboratively supporting decision makers to prepare and respond to floods and droughts
Extreme climatic events – in particular floods and droughts - are devastating for millions of people around the world, and are growing in frequency and severity. Whether the Californian drought affecting one of the most prosperous regions of the planet, or the Bangkok floods affecting a key emerging economic hub, large numbers of communities are at risk. It is critical to be prepared for such unexpected events; however, hydrological uncertainty means that it can be difficult to make decisions on how to manage water. Such uncertainty dramatically increases risks for many countries, affecting the organisations responsible for managing basins, as well as downstream water users such as water utilities and industries.
The growing need to recognise and address flood and drought risks, has created a demand for climate information and analysis that can better inform preparedness and planning. In response to this, the global project, Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT), is developing a package of web-based technical applications, accessible through the Flood and Drought Portal. These support planning and decision-making for issues related to climate variability and climate change. The tools or technical applications can be used individually or together at basin and local levels, providing users with a scientific approach focused on identifying and evaluating the impact and risk for flood and drought hazards, and planning for mitigation or adaptation measures. The outcome enables stakeholders to compile information, from models, indicators and existing planning approaches, so as to develop future planning scenarios that are robust, resilient and pragmatic.
Flood and Drought portal developed as part of the project (www.floodroughtmonitor.com)
Throughout the project, part of the approach has been trainings which have acted as consultations with end-users. This has allowed the project outputs to be shaped by the needs and requirements of those who are at the forefront of dealing with the problems. Feedback from the training sessions is used to refine and adjust the technical methods as well as the final technical applications. The most recent training took place in two parts between March 27th and 31st in Accra, Ghana, first with water utilities, followed by basin and national level organisations.
The national water utility in Burkina Faso and Ghana; l'Office National de l'Eau et de l'Assainissement (ONEA), and Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) respectively, convened for two days at the Ghana Water headquarters in Accra, Ghana. The interactive training focussed on how the project outputs could support the Water Safety Plan implementation process through the assessment of catchment based hazards, as well as direct support of the Water Safety Planning implementation.
The second part of the training focused on basin and the national water resource organisations, with participation of the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) and Agence de l'Eau de Nakambé from Burkina Faso and the Water Resources Commission (WRC), Volta River Authority (VRA), Hydrological Services Department (HSD) and the Water Resources department of Ghana Water. The training concentrated on basin and national water resource planning and how the project outputs can support the existing planning methods applied within the Volta basin. The training included a combination of exercises illustrating the functionality of the technical applications, as well as a user case study based on the issue of drought and its effect on crops within the Volta basin. Group exercises were also included to increase the linkage between the participating organisations.
The technical training in the Volta basin is being followed by similar trainings in the Lake Victoria and Chao Phraya basin during 2017, and a final round of trainings in 2018 (before the project closure in June 2018). There will also be webinars to provide support and updates at face-to-face sessions, as well as access to video guides that explain how to use the technical applications.
Support for basin and national water resource planning
Basin and national water resource planning is historically supported by existing planning methods including Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis and Strategic Action Programmes (TDA/SAP). One of the key project objectives is to support these existing methods with a science-based and structured approach used within any transboundary or national basin. Due to the global focus, the project is developing technical applications supporting specific components within IWRM and TDA/SAP that are generic enough to be applied anywhere. The following steps are being supported:
- Baseline assessment - evaluating the current state of the basin,
- Impact assessment - identify and locate drought and flood based hazards and the associated impact and risk towards vulnerable sectors and areas,
- Planning - allowing decision makers to evaluate different planning options including investments, water management strategies, climate change and population growth,
- Dissemination and warnings - providing information and dissemination to end users.
At basin and national level, effective management of water resources can be a challenge due to the range of issues to address, such as changing water availability, crop types, land use, increasing urbanisation, the number of potentially impacted stakeholders, and the availability of data and information. This often results in a long process for development and implementation of a basin or national plan. As availability of near-real time satellite-based data, seasonal and short-term climate forecasts, climate change data, and direct links to water resource models for assessment of the impact of planning options are limited, the project aims to provide updated information sources and methods.
The project supports and updates existing planning methods by providing technical applications that provide new data and methods of assessing this data for decisions makers.
Support for water security and water safety planning
For water utilities, the entry point is water safety planning (WSP), a comprehensive risk assessment and management approach from catchment to consumer that aims to consistently ensure the safety and acceptability of drinking-water supply. The steps to undertake a WSP are outlined in the WHO/IWA WSP manual (http://www.wsportal.org/what-are-water-safety-plans/). Although, the traditional aim of WSP has been to ensure water quality, it is now recognised that impacts on the hydrological cycle due to climatic variability and change are affecting the timing and intensity of rainfall. This has a direct effect on available freshwater resources for utilities as it affects quantity as well as quality.
The use and application of climate information in improving operational and long term planning is something of which utilities are becoming more aware, but it is not always an integral part of their current planning. The WSP approach can also be modified to adapt to long-term change in climate and slow-onset of hazards by recognising how the water supply system may be affected by factoring these effects into the risk assessment, and by identifying appropriate control measures. The aim for the FDMT project is to support the WSP process by providing:
- A structured approach guiding the user through the different steps of the WSP;
- Through the use of a secure web based solution (which the project relies on), allow different members of a water safety planning team to share information;
- Access to data and information enabling a water utility to identify and locate catchment based flood and drought hazards and their impact on the system; and
- Access to technical applications which can provide alerts and reports to end users.
The challenge is to provide support to water utilities within different regional and local settings, as well as addressing different issues to secure drinking water supply. Technical trainings, and ongoing dialogue within the three pilot basins, are providing essential feedback for how the project outputs can be used within the development and implementation of WSPs.
Technical applications at the Flood and Drought portal
Want to know more? Get an overview of the technical applications provided as part of the project outputs by visiting the flood and drought portal at www.flooddroughtmonitor.com. The technical applications will be released throughout 2017, and all registered users will be notified when a new application is available. The flood and drought portal provides access to step by step video guides and a range of technical exercises, used for understanding the application at specific basin, national or local issues related to current or future flood- or drought-related hazards.
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The Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT) project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters (IW) and implemented by UNEP, with the International Water Association (IWA) and DHI as the executing agencies. The project is developing online technical applications to support planning from the transboundary basin to water utility level by including better information on floods and droughts. The project is being implemented from 2014 - 2018, and 3 pilot basins (Volta, Lake Victoria and Chao Phraya) are participating in development and testing.