Droughts and water scarcity pose a significant risk to societies, economies and ecosystems worldwide. In 2012 the UK experienced the driest spring in over a century, following two dry winters. A full drought could have led to potential losses of Â£1.5 billion. Yet despite this severe economic impact, our scientific understanding of the complex drivers causing drought occurrence, duration and intensity, and our ability to characterise and predict minimise their impacts, is often inadequate.
Following the 2011-2012 UK drought experience, the MaRIUS project has received NERC funding to explore how best to manage future droughts. This project, Managing the Risks, Impacts and Uncertainties of drought and water Scarcity, seeks to help introduce a risk-based approach to drought and water scarcity in order to inform management decisions and prepare households. The MaRIUS project started in June 2014 and extends for three years. It is part of the wider UK Droughts & Water Scarcity research programme funded by the UK research councils.
The MaRIUS project vision is that management of droughts and water scarcity will in future be more explicitly risk based, incorporating authoritative analysis of the full range of drought impacts on people and the environment, and a systemic understanding of their interactions and uncertainties. A risk-based approach will enable the development of management measures whose costs and impacts are in proportion to the probability and consequences of water scarcity, informed by a mature understanding of droughts from the perspectives of a range of communities and stakeholders. Improved understanding of associated uncertainties will provide the basis for identification of management responses that are robust to uncertainty, reflect society's attitude to risk, and will help to make the case for adaptive management approaches informed by targeted data acquisition.
The MaRIUS project takes a fundamentally interdisciplinary and integrated approach to drought risk analysis and management. There are four key workstreams as follows:
A: Controversies and governance of water scarcity: this work stream will analyse how impacts and risks of droughts and water scarcity are currently understood and managed by key stakeholders, and how this is shaped by institutions, regulation and markets.
B: Probabilistic analysis of droughts and water scarcity: this work stream focuses upon analyses of water quantity and quality at catchment and national scales during droughts. It starts with the generation of an drought event set of hydrometeorological conditions that are generated from the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre's RCM HadRM3P model and which will be propagated through the MaRIUS suite of models in B and C for analysis of the impacts of water scarcity, and computation of risk in D.
C: Impacts of water scarcity: this work stream will develop new methodologies and models for analysing the impacts of water scarcity for ecosystem (including wetland environments), agriculture, society and various economic activities including agriculture, industry and household consumers.
D: Synthesis of risks and evaluation of management options: this work stream comprises an integration of the research and liaison with partners and stakeholders to investigate and create innovative options for management of droughts. It will build on the research outputs to identify management options for reducing the risk of water and explore their governance and societal implications. An 'impacts dashboard' will allow the communication and exploration of different dimensions of impact and risk reduction options.
The MaRIUS project benefits from the expert advice and support from the input of a very experienced group of stakeholders in government, industry and non-governmental organisations. Regular feedback and liaison is built into the project to ensure that the project outcome will be practicable and useful to the end user community. Further to this the project has the support of an International Advisory Board of international drought experts who share lessons from global research and practice, and ensure the MaRIUS research of the highest international standards.
Results and Discussion
By the time the Congress starts, the project will have been underway for one year and there will be much to report. We would like to present the research findings to date, and the outputs from liaison and stakeholder engagement activities that have led to an enhanced understanding the management of current water scarcity and the way in which a risk based approach can be achieved.
Further to this, if possible, a round table / discussion format would be optimal to allow a structured discussion session to explore and share global knowledge and experience of risk based approaches to managing water resources with regard to drought; example of where such practices exist; and discussions of what obstacles exist to the implementation of risk based management (such as physical, infrastructure, behavioural etc.).
The MaRIUS project aims to provide new evidence and insights to minimise and manage the harmful impacts of droughts and water scarcity to the environment, society and the economy. It will provide benefits through the improved management of risks and more inclusive, transparent, effective and efficient arrangements for risk management.
The expected beneficiaries are:
1. Organisations with responsibility for the management of droughts and water scarcity, who will benefit from improved evidence of the risks of droughts and potential impacts of water scarcity;
2. Communities and businesses who may be impacted by droughts and water scarcity, including domestic and industrial water users and farmers; and
3. The natural environment and organisations with responsibility for, or an interest in, protecting the environment from the impacts of droughts and water scarcity.