The WE-ACT project, backed by the European Commission, is on a mission to revolutionize the allocation of water resources across borders by using digitalization tools for inclusive, forward-looking and climate risk-informed water allocation planning and management processes.
In January, FutureWater joined the kick-off of the Horizon Europe funded WE-ACT (Water Efficient Allocation in a Central Asian Transboundary River Basin) project at the Technical University of Munich. During the kick-off, representatives from all the consortium partners were present. The WE-ACT project will change the game in transboundary water allocation and management by introducing a revolutionary Decision Support System (DSS) that optimizes shared benefits and enhances resilience in the face of a rapidly changing climate. With a €5.2 million budget co-funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme, the project prompts a paradigm shift towards climate-sensitive water allocation systems and financing mechanisms. WE-ACT aims to establish a new standard for sustainable water allocation, particularly in a transboundary context where competition for shared resources is increasing, by showcasing its innovative one-stop shop Decision Support System (DSS). The project started on 1 January 2023 and over the coming four years, FutureWater will contribute to the determination of water allocation for the current and future climate by combining modelling work on water availability and water demand in the region as part of work package two which is led by University of Twente, the Netherlands.
Climate-sensitive water management is fundamental for sustainable development
Water scarcity is on the rise, leading to major challenges in allocating water for various uses, quality, quantity, and time. In transboundary basins, where multiple countries and users have conflicting interests, the challenge is even greater. However, sustainable water allocation across borders is crucial, as 60% of global freshwater resources flow across national borders.
The overarching goal of the WE-ACT project is to assist decision-makers in transboundary rivers in achieving equitable allocation of transboundary water among various sectors and users. This will be accomplished through the use of inclusive, forward-looking, and climate risk-aware water allocation planning and management processes. The project aims to enhance water policies, assign proper value to water, and involve stakeholders to ultimately reap the benefits of effective water allocation strategies.
At the heart of the project is a digital decision-support system (DSS) that will provide water resources managers with a reliable and intuitive tool to understand, manage, and communicate management options. The DSS will be backed by a robust hydro-meteorological monitoring network and data supply chain that captures a thorough understanding of climate change on flow-regimes, water availability, demand, footprint, and allocation in a glacier-fed river basin in Central Asia, the Naryn and Kara Darya catchments, which span Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The DSS and data supply chain will be aligned with an understanding of the water policies, financing instruments, incentives, and stakeholder priorities in the face of growing pressure from climate change, rising demand, and increasing economic dependency on water, particularly in the energy (hydropower) and agriculture (water-intensive crops) sectors, which puts additional strain on water availability for the environment.
From information to impact: engaging stakeholders with competing priorities for climate-smart water allocation
WE-ACT is leading the way towards equitable and sustainable water allocation through its innovative collaborative design of the DSS. The approach starts with a shared vision planning process, paired with thorough stakeholder analysis for optimal transparency and efficiency. Together with national and local decision-makers in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the project is evaluating existing cross-border policies and agreements, and developing flexible, integrated solutions for benefit-sharing in a changing water environment. The project is also shaking up conventional financing mechanisms, by examining pricing strategies, economic approaches, and the value of water for various groups and industries. The approach prioritizes social and environmental factors, considering the costs and benefits of key water services in a cross-border context.
Dr. Jingshui Huang, researcher at the Chair of Hydrology and River Basin Management, Technical University of Munich (TUM) and WE-ACT Project Coordinator, commented: “In light of the looming climate crisis, we recognize the pressing need for innovative, flexible solutions to future-proof water allocation and management. We are focused on knowledge-based approach for managing water resources in transboundary glacier- and snow-fed river basins in Central Asia, where competition between hydropower and irrigation demands is intense. Our mission is to deliver a climate-sensitive decision support system, equipped with forward-looking, climate risk-informed tools that facilitate inclusive and efficient water allocation planning and management processes.”
Coordinated by Technical University of Munich, the WE-ACT project brings together industry, policy, government, research, academic, technical and scientific leaders from Europe and Central Asia to collaborate towards the next generation of climate-sensitive water resource allocation planning and management.
More information about the project can be found here.