Mountains act as global ‘water towers’ storing and releasing water to downstream areas to sustain environmental and human water demands. Compared to downstream, mountains generate much higher runoff from rain as a result of orographic precipitation and delay the release of water by storing it in snow and glaciers. Because of their buffering capacity, for instance by supplying glacier melt water during the hot and dry season, mountains provide a relatively constant water supply to downstream areas (Immerzeel et al., 2019; Viviroli et al., 2003). This water is used to sustain ecosystems, irrigate crops and produce food (Biemans et al., 2019) for domestic and industrial purposes, and to generate the bulk of the available hydropower (Gernaat et al., 2017; Hoes et al., 2017).
Mountain ranges are vulnerable systems: climate change hits harder at high altitudes, where temperature increases more rapidly than in the surrounding lowlands (Pepin et al., 2015), and affects the storage of water as glacier ice and snow (Kraaijenbrink et al., 2017). This leads to changes in hydrological regimes with seasonal shifts and faster hydrological response (Huss and Hock, 2018; Lutz et al., 2014). On the other hand, pressure on high mountain water resources will increase with growing downstream water demand under socioeconomic development. Climate change also leads to an increase in extreme weather in mountains, which already experience frequent extreme weather. This strongly increases the risk of floods and landslides.
In summary, mountain regions and their downstream areas are subject to a variety of potential adverse future changes, which need to be taken into account in climate change adaptation and investment decisions.
FutureWater has unique in-house, world leading mountain hydrology expertise. This expertise is used in research and consultancy, where we frequently deploy our Spatial Processes in Hydrology (SPHY) model, which has specific strengths in simulating high mountain hydrology under data scarce conditions. We develop projections of future water availability, provide detailed insight in expected shifts in seasonality of water supply and can assess how these correspond to future changes in water demand. For the hydropower sector we provide detailed future flow and power generation projections to aid investment decisions, and we provide climate risk assessments in mountainous regions for a range of sectors. We provide research and advice at scales ranging from single catchments to large river basins. Our assessments do not stop at the transition from highland to lowland, but we make the link between upstream and downstream to provide advice on integrated water resource management and consideration of the full water-food-energy nexus.
GLOW: Global Water Availability Forecasting Service to Support Water Security
The GLOW project aims to pilot an operational service that provides timely and easy access to current and forecasted water availability and demand across the entire Maputo River and the Black Umbeluzi River Basins.
WE-ACT: Water Efficient Allocation in a Central Asian Transboundary River Basin
The WE-ACT project’s overall goal is to demonstrate a Decision Support System (DSS) for water allocation in a Central Asian transboundary river to increase shared benefits and foster the adaptation of water resources management and planning to climate change.
Climate Risk and Adaptation Assessment for Hydropower Project in Nepal
Climate risk and adaptation (CRA) assessment is required for the 635 MW Dudhkoshi hydroelectric project (DKSHEP) to ensure the project addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation in accordance with ADB’s requirements. The initial Climate Risk Assessment (CRA) by FutureWater in 2021 suggested the project is likely to be affected by…
Climate Risk and Adaptation Assessment for Nepal’s Power Sector
Nepal’s power sector predominantly relies on hydropower generation. Hydropower is vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters caused by climate change. An understanding of the future impact of climate change on hydropower assets and their performance is important for the successful implementation of hydropower projects. Climate risk and adaptation (CRA)…
Development of a Glacio-Hydrological Model and IWRM Plan for the Uttarakhand subbasin in India
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDCs) Global Programme Climate Change and Environment (GP CCE) India is supporting the operationalization of climate change adaptation actions in the mountain states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh through the phase two of the “Strengthening State Strategies for Climate Action” (3SCA) project…
Hydrological Assessment for Hydropower in the Lukhra River
The objective was to develop a hydrological assessment for a planned run-of-river hydropower plant in the Lukhra river basin in Georgia. There is no observed river discharge data available. Hence, the assessment was developed based on hydrological simulations of the basin using the SPHY model (Terink et al., 2015) and…
Glacio-hydrological Assessment for Hydropower in the Nakhra River
The objective was to develop a glacio-hydrological assessment for planned run-of-river hydropower plant locations in the Nakhraa river basin in Georgia. The availability of observed river flow data is limited. Hence the assessment was developed based on hydrological simulations of the basin using the SPHY model (Terink et al., 2015).…
Thought Leader Convening on Water Towers
Scientists from around the world have assessed the planet’s 78 mountain glacier–based water systems and, for the first time, ranked them in order of their importance to adjacent lowland communities, as well as their vulnerability to future environmental and socioeconomic changes. These systems, known as mountain water towers, store and…
Pan-TPE: Changes in the Pan-Third Pole Water Tower
The proposed research targets changes in climate, water supply and demand, and suitable adaptation measures for green development of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) in the river basins crossed by the SREB transect. Given the strong role of large scale hydrology in the proposed research activities, the spatial domain…
Climate Risk Assessment Using the Decision Tree Framework
The novel methodology that is piloted by the World Bank for assessing climate risks versus other risks on water resource projects, called the Decision Tree Framework (DTF), is applied to two two planned investments: (1) flood protection infrastructure and irrigated cropland expansion on the Nzoia river, Kenya; and (2) the…
Hydropower Development Assessment for the Tamakoshi River Basin
The overall objective of this project is to improve the understanding of the expected impacts of climate change on water availability in the context of potential hydropower development in the Tamakoshi River Basin. Specifically, the project aims to (i) Understand the current baseline hydrological regime of the Tamakoshi River Basin,…
Review Climate Change Hindu-Kush-Himalaya
FutureWater provided a comprehensive review study on climate change and the impacts on cryosphere, hydrological regimes and glacier lakes in the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river basins. This review study was done in the context of future hydropower development in the region.
HI-AWARE: Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience
HI-AWARE aims to contribute to enhanced adaptive capacities and climate resilience of the poor and vulnerable women, men, and children living in the mountains and flood plains of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river basins. Research, including modeling, scoping studies, action research, and randomized control trials, is conducted at 12…
Central Asia Regional Risk Assessment for Water Related Energy Sector Impacts
The objective of this study was to support the “Central Asia Regional Energy Sector Vulnerability Study” led by Industrial Economics (IEc) and funded by the World Bank, by carrying out an expanded risk assessment for water availability and water related energy sector impacts in Central Asia. The work built on…
Gridded Meteorological Datasets and Hydrological Modelling in the Upper Indus Basin
Understanding of the hydrological regimes in the mountainous Upper Indus basin (UIB) is essential for water resources management in the region. High-resolution gridded meteorological datasets, which capture the spatial variability of precipitation, are critical for modelling the hydrology of high-mountain regions. Improvements to existing gridded datasets using high-elevation station data…
Monitoring of Glacier, Climate and Runoff in the Hindu – Kush Himalayan Mountains
For this project a review was conducted of current state of knowledge in (i) climate change datasets and downscaling used for glacier and high mountain modelling, (ii) glacier and snow contribution to river runoff in the Hindu – Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, (iii) hydrological modelling studies used for glacier and…