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A Water Security Framework To Address Climate Change Adaptation Of Urban Water Systems

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Sebastian Vicuna (Santiago, Chile), Mark Redwood
Climate Change and Water Program, International Development Research Center1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 11: Key vulnerabilities and security risks,
AbstractWater security is a main concern in cities and is achieved by well-planned and implemented water, wastewater and storm water systems. Despite progress in improving water security, 11% of the world's population still lack access to water that is safe for consumption. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable with 40% of the population still not able to access a safe source of drinking water (UN-Habitat, 2014). Consequently, informal systems often proliferate, particularly in developing countries, as a response to water resource needs. This lack of access also prohibits the development of cities and preservation of critical urban environmental services. For example, the lack of functional water and wastewater systems threatens the health of population, the environment and water users within and downstream of cities. Storm water runoff systems are often poorly designed leading to high water loads that damage property, other infrastructure (e.g. electrical supply and delivery systems), and directly affect human livelihoods. These challenges are compounded by the poor appraisal of threats including a limited knowledge of changes in water demand or increased pollution loads discharged in cities. Cities also typically occupy part of a larger hydrological system like a watershed and are therefore subject to changing water demand, competition amongst users or increased pollution upstream of the city. Finally, given 90% of the impact of climate change will be reflected in changes in the water system -- drought, flooding, temperature driven changes in water demand and salt water intrusion - it is clear that adapting water systems to cope with climate change will be critical for future water security (IPCC WG2, 2014). We propose a climate change adaptation framework grounded in water security. This framework provides perspective on some of the critical questions that arise during adaptation planning. The framework expands on the IPCC (2014, Chapter 8) framework tying adaptive capacity to the level of urban service provision, but focuses in on water, wastewater and storm water services. We highlight first how the concept of water security is understood within an urban context and how many cities cope (or fail to cope) with water security depending on the institutional and infrastructural aspects of their water systems. We then present some of the literature that describe potential future threats on water security and provide examples throughout the world of adaptation options that could be implemented to climate proof water security in the future. Examples from cities such as Middlefort (Denmark), Santiago (Chile), Bangalore (India) and Dakar (Senegal) are used to supplement our conceptual approach.
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