The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Smart Water Policies to Combat Climate Change

Beating climate change means adopting climate-resistant water management approaches because without water there is no life. People all over the world are experiencing the impacts of climate change, with very real consequences for their lives and for the natural systems on which they depend. These impacts are experienced more directly through water: floods, droughts, storms, rising temperatures and rising sea levels.

At the same time, water resources are increasingly variable, partly due to the climate crisis. Water availability and demand are becoming more unpredictable, affecting water quality and threatening sustainable development.

These challenges were discussed during the “Watering the National Adaptation Plans” event at #COP25 Spain Pavilion.
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Quenching Adaptation's Thirst: Resilient Water Management to Guide Climate Action

Water-Background-Paper-cover
Water has long been recognized as a central component of climate change impacts as well as a tool to ensure effective adaptation. In the words of Carter Roberts, CEO, WWF-US, at the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in 2009, “The language of water is the language of climate change.” Nevertheless, miscommunication and misunderstanding remain an issue between the water and climate change communities.

A new Water Background Paper has been prepared as part of a series designed to inform the Global Commission on Adaptation's 2019 flagship report. The goal of this Water Background Paper is to answer the fundamental two-audience question posed by the UNFCCC in 2016: what can the water community do to help advance targets for climate change adaptation, and what can the climate community do to help advance targets for water resilience?
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New Report: Ready for Tomorrow: Seven Strategies for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

As the impacts of climate change are felt more forcefully around the globe, decision makers are asking, with increasing urgency, how they can make their communities and businesses more resilient. One obvious place to start is infrastructure. To address this, the Hoover Institution convened a yearlong collaboration with leading experts and practitioners in development banks, government agencies, universities, private firms, non-governmental organizations, and professional associations. It drew on diverse perspectives to the challenges of resilience, including physical and social science, engineering, policy, finance, and education. The resulting paper lays out seven strategies for developing more climate-resilient infrastructure.
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Water Resources IMPACT 2018 Article of the Year Announced

American Water Resources Association (AWRA) selects inaugural Water Resources IMPACT magazine Article of the Year winner, names two runners-up.

MIDDLEBURG, VA, March 26, 2019

The American Water Resources Association (AWRA) is pleased to announce that "Climate Change: Resilient Infrastructure or Infrastructure for Resilience?" written by John Matthews and published in the November 2018 issue is winner of the Water Resources IMPACT magazine 2018 Article of the Year.

In nominating this article one of the editors wrote, “Matthews’ engaging writing style draws in the reader, asks critical questions, and promotes multidisciplinary approaches.”

"Many, many thanks for this," responded Matthews, lead and co-founder of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), chaired by the World Bank and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and a senior water Fellow at Colorado State University. "I'm so honored to be nominated, much less to have achieved article of the year. Resilience may be the newest, most important (and least understood) concept for water management today. Practical lessons for resilience water management -- what we need to do differently in light of climate change -- are here already, but often those examples are not where we're used to finding them. Now is the time for us to draw on the global pool of examples and reach across traditional boundaries to achieve the non-traditional solutions we need today."

Download Matthews' winning article here.

The evaluation process also revealed two articles that tied for second place:

"Endangered by Injustice: The Human Right to Water in the United States," by Susan Lea Smith, March 2018, IMPACT.
"Integrating Law, Science and a Path Forward: Opportunities for Collective Action in a Time of Change," by Lara B. Fowler, and Robert T. Caccese, November 2018, IMPACT.

Download runners-up articles here.
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New Episode of #ClimateReady Podcast | What the Heck Is Resilience? Moving Words into Practice

Sustainable development has been the guiding principle for meeting today’s needs without compromising the future of our planet. But what happens when the pace of change outpaces sustainable development practices? And how can we adequately plan for development when the future is increasingly uncertain?

Often we use the term “resilience” in the context of climate adaptation but, perhaps artfully, we also often leave the word undefined. Resilience is a value, a goal, an ethic, and a principle intended to lead to action. Resilience-based approaches to adaptation and sustainable development are gaining more traction in recent years as ways to help communities, governments, and development organizations adapt, transform, and thrive in the face of change. In this episode of ClimateReady—the final one of Season 2—we finally take a deep dive into this resilience thread that runs through almost all of our stories around climate and water. Dr. Nate Matthews of the Global Resilience Partnership joins the show to discuss the principles behind the concept, the systemic changes involved, and the evolving relationships between donors, practitioners, and the private sector.

Following our main interview, we close out with a poetic story as our “Postcard from the Future.” Dr. Raha Hakimdavar, a Hydrologist at the US Forest Service, reflects on the cultural and personal significance of water, and an important but often forgotten impact of climate change. A full version of her poem is available at unfccc.int/documents/184122.
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OOSKAnews Voices | The Long View On Long-Term Climate Impacts: Building Cathedrals Of Resilience

The columns in OOSKAnews Voices provide a global platform for organizations and individuals to promulgate their views and messages. This article from AGWA's Coordinator proposes that cities are the landscape where most climate adaptation occurs, and that water is at the heart of these plans of action. Dr. Matthews takes the long view on resilience, comparing the lengthy but necessary courses of actions taken by cities to improve resilience to the historic processes of cathedral building. Both are "messy affairs, achieving perfection and persistence through adaptive management, patience, and clear vision." Specific attention is given to two parallel initiatives taking place in and around Mexico City to increase resilience.

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"Listening to speakers, I wondered if CDMX is effectively building a new cathedral — this one to water and climate change..."
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Resilience in the Rural Andes

The journal Regional Environmental Change has released a Special Issue on "Resilience in the rural Andes: critical dynamics, constraints and emerging opportunities," which presents current advances in resilience science and practice.

Abstract
The Andes present an ideal learning space to draw lessons on existing and emerging resilience challenges and opportunities. Andean people and societies have co-evolved with the unique high-mountain contexts in which they live, sometimes in altitudes of more than 3800 m. Although historical achievements including irrigation systems, domestication of cameloids (llama and alpaca) and crop preservation techniques facilitated the development of ancient civilisations in the Andes, modern Andean people face serious challenges in achieving food security and wellbeing. This Special Issue aims to improve our understanding of the key dynamics of socio-ecological systems that constrain or foster resilience in the rural Andes. It comprises six papers that investigate three core features of resilience in a variety of socio-ecological systems: diversity, connectivity and development models. The novel insights into resilience dynamics include specific features related to the high-mountain contexts and socio-political tensions in the Andes. Future research can build on this knowledge to further not only resilience theory but also methodological approaches which reflect both case-specific and generic complexity.
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OOSKAnews Voices: Fighting the Language of Resilience: Godzilla vs The Blob

OOSKAnews Voices is a new series of guest “opinion columns” on water, written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. The columns provide a global platform for organizations and individuals to promulgate their views and messages. In this piece John H. Matthews, co-founder and secretariat coordinator for AGWA, discusses the challenges in clearly defining "resilience" as it relates to climate change.

Much of the work of addressing climate impacts from water threats is difficult to communicate. It is no easy feat to come up with a clear and consistent definition for "resilience," even though it is one of the more often-used terms in the field. In this article resilience takes on some interesting forms - Godzilla vs The Blob. Read More...
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AGWA at COP21 - "Resilience & Water: Towards a New Vision for Sustainability"

As part of the global #ClimateIsWater Initiative and the unofficial “Water Day” at COP21, AGWA organized an event to promote the value and understanding of water considerations within the climate change debate.

During this half-day event, Dr. John Matthews, Secretariat Coordinator for AGWA, gave a presentation on freshwater resilience entitled "Resilience & Water: Towards a New Vision for Sustainability." This video provides insight into the threats, vulnerabilities, and uncertainties facing freshwater and how the global water community can respond resiliently.

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Cresting Research: July 2015 Selected AGWA Reading

Is "resilience" the same for the natural and social sciences? Should it be?

How do we best define "resilience" across disciplines in light of the large perceived differences in both meaning and application? And better yet, is resilience the best rallying point for collaborative work, or might there be a better motivation for bringing together disciplines from social and environmental sciences? In the third installment of “Cresting Research” (AGWA’s research spotlight), we will focus on how to reconcile the term "resilience" between social and environmental sciences and how we can get past any perceived differences to accomplish meaningful collaborative work. Read More...
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Pacific Island Nations: Challenges and Lessons Learned

At the Seventh World Water Forum in South Korea, AGWA coordinated a thematic session on "Mainstreaming Climate Adaptation into Water Management, Planning, and Policy." It was co-convened by UNESCO-IHP. This video highlights Dr. Christine Chan of AGWA as she speaks during the panel discussion. In her talk she addresses some of the lessons learned from her experiences in Pacific Island Nations. Dr. Chan outlines some of the challenges facing local populations as climate change affects their lands and offers her thoughts on ways to enhance resilience in these areas.
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