Agriculture is the most water demanding and consuming sector, globally responsible for most of the human induced water withdrawals. This abstraction of water is a critical input for agricultural production and plays an important role in food security as irrigated agriculture represents about 20 percent of the total cultivated land while contributing by 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.
The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-RAP) is concerned about this increase in water use over the last decades that has led to water scarcity in many countries. This trend will continue as the gap between water demand and supply is projected to widen due to factors such as population growth and economic development, and environmental factors such as land degradation and climate change.
Unfortunately, solutions to overcome the current and future water crisis by looking at the agricultural sector are not simple and have often led to unrealistic expectations. Misconceptions and overly simplistic (and often erroneous) views have been flagged and described over the last recent decades. However, uptake of those new insights by decision makers and the irrigation sector itself has been limited.
The “Follow the Water” project will develop a Guidance Document that summarizes those aspects and, more importantly, quantifies the return flows that occurs in irrigated systems. Those return flows are collected from a wide range of experiments and are collected in a database to be used as reference for new and/or rehabilitation irrigation projects.
The FAO/FutureWater project will also develop a simple-to-use tool to track water in irrigated systems using so-called “virtual tracers”. The tool will respond to the demand for a better understanding the role of reuse of water in irrigated agriculture systems. An extensive training package, based on the Guidance and the Tool, is developed as well.
FAO plays an essential role in backstopping the development of the Guidance and the Tool and promoting. FutureWater takes the lead in development of the Guidance, the Tool and the training package. With this, FAO and FutureWater will contribute to a sustainable future of our water resources.
In irrigated agriculture options to save water tend to focus on improved irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. These irrigation techniques are promoted as legitimate means of increasing water efficiency and “saving water” for other uses (such as domestic use and the environment). However, a growing body of evidence, including a key report by FAO (Perry and Steduto, 2017) shows that in most cases, water “savings” at field scale translate into an increase in water consumption at system and basin scale. Yet despite the growing and irrefutable body of evidence, false “water savings” technologies continue to be promoted, subsidized and implemented as a solution to water scarcity in agriculture.
The goal is to stop false “water savings” technologies to be promoted, subsidized and implemented. To achieve this, it is important to quantify the hydrologic impacts of any new investment or policy in the water sector. Normally, irrigation engineers and planners are trained to look at field scale efficiencies or irrigation system efficiencies at the most. Also, many of the tools used by irrigation engineers are field scale oriented (e.g. FAO AquaCrop model). The serious consequences of these actions are to worsen water scarcity, increase vulnerability to drought, and threaten food security.
There is an urgent need to develop simple and pragmatic tools that can evaluate the impact of field scale crop-water interventions at larger scales (e.g. irrigation systems and basins). Although basin scale hydrological models exist, many of these are either overly complex and unable to be used by practitioners, or not specifically designed for the upscaling from field interventions to basin scale impacts. Moreover, achieving results from the widely-used FAO models such as AquaCrop into a basin-wide impact model is time-consuming, complex and expensive. Therefore, FutureWater developed a simple but robust tool to enhance usability and reach, transparency, transferability in data input and output. The tool is based on proven concepts of water productivity, water accounting and the appropriate water terminology, as promoted by FAO globally (FAO, 2013). Hence, the water use is separated in consumptive use, non-consumptive use, and change in storage.
A complete training package was developed which includes a training manual and an inventory of possible field level interventions. The training manual includes the following aspects:
Introduce and present the real water savings tool
Describe the theory underlying the tool and demonstrating some typical applications
Learn how-to prepare the data required for the tool for your own area of interest
Learn when real water savings occur at system and basin scale with field interventions
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 that was launched in 2020. The second phase of 3SCA (2020-23), known as the Strengthening Climate Change Adaptation in Himalayas (SCA-Himalayas), while building on the experience and achievements of Phase 1, aims to showcase mountain ecosystem appropriate scalable approaches for climate resilience in water and disaster risk management sectors; using these efforts to enhance the capacities of the institutions across the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) to plan, implement and mainstream adaptation actions into their programmes and policy frameworks; and disseminating the experiences and lessons at the regional and global level.
Within this programme, SDC has granted a project to FutureWater, together with Utrecht University, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the University of Geneva and a few individual experts. The activities in this project focus on the development and application of climate responsive models and approaches for integrated water resources management (IWRM) for a selected glacier-fed sub-basin system in Uttarakhand and that at the same will find place in relevant policy frameworks paving way for their replication across IHR and other mountainous regions. This will allow the policy makers from the mountain states in India to manage the available water resources in an efficient and effective manner, benefiting the populations depending on these resources.
The combination of future climate change and socio-economic development poses great challenges for water security in areas depending on mountain water (Immerzeel et al., 2019). Climate change affects Asia’s high mountain water supply by its impact on the cryosphere. Changes in glacier ice storage, snow dynamics, evaporation rates lead to changes in runoff composition, overall water availability, seasonal shifts in hydrographs, and increases in extremely high and low flows (Huss and Hock, 2018; Lutz et al., 2014a). On the other and, downstream water demand in South Asia increases rapidly under population growth and increasing welfare boosting the demand for and electricity generation through hydropower. To address and adapt to these challenges integrated water resource management (IWRM) approaches and decision support systems (DSS) tailored to glacier- and snow-fed subbasins are required.
To fulfil the mandate outlined by SDC a framework is presented for IWRM and DSS for Himalayan subbasins consisting of three integrated platforms. (i) A modelling and decision support platform built around a multi-scale modelling framework for glacier and snow fed subbasins, based on state-of-the art and “easy to use” modelling technology. (ii) A stakeholder engagement platform to consult key stakeholders, identify key IWRM issues and co-design a new IWRM plan for Bhagirathi subbasin. (iii) A capacity building platform with on-site training and e-learning modules for the key project components: glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS, to ensure the sustainability of the approach and pave the way for upscaling to other subbasins in the Indian Himalayan Region.
The three platforms are designed designed to be flexible, integrated and interactive. Moreover they align with the three outcomes of the project, thus contributing to: develop and validate an integrated climate resilient water resource management approach (Outcome 1); increase technical and institutional capacity in the fields of hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS (Outcome 2); support the embedding of the IWRM approach tailored to glacier-fed Indian Himalayan subbasins in policies, and provide generic outputs and guidelines to facilitate upscaling to other subbasins in the Indian Himalayan Region (Outcome 3).
The modelling and decision support platform is designed for operation under the data scarce conditions faced in Himalayan catchments, and yields reliable outputs and projections. The modelling toolset covers the Bhagirathi watershed (Figure below) and consists of 3 hydrological models: (i) a high resolution glacio-hydrological model for the Dokriani glacier catchment (SPHY-Dokriani). Key parameters derived with this model are upscaled to (ii) a distributed glacio-hydrological model that covers the Bhagirathi subbasin (SPHYBhagirathi). Outputs of this model feed into (iii) a water allocation model that overlays the SPHY-Bhagirathi model in the downstream parts of the basin, where water demands are located (WEAP–PODIUMSIM Bhagirathi). This modelling toolset is forced with downscaled climate change projections and socio-economic projections to simulate future changes in water supply and demand in the subbasin. On the basis of stakeholder inputs, adaptation options are identified and implemented in the water allocation model for scenario analysis. Thus, socio-economic projections and adaptation options are co-designed with the stakeholders to ensure maximum applicability, and are tailored to the requirements for formulation of the new IWRM plan. The outputs of the modelling toolset feed into the Decision Support System, where they are presented in such a way that they can truly support decision making in this subbasin. Results of the modelling, decision support and stakeholder engagement platforms jointly support the co-design of an IWRM plan for the subbasin. Capacity in glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and the use of DSS is built through a combination of on-site training and e-learning; replicable training modules are developed for glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS in general and for this particular approach to support implementation and sustainability.
FutureWater has undertaken a country wide climate risk screening as starting point for further project specific assessments. Main conclusions in the context of the program objectives were that by increased temperatures water supply will be challenged by the risk that water demand will increase and that at the same that supply will reduce by higher evaporation from catchments. Also waste water treatment will face the risk of reduced efficiencies.
India’s number of warm days and nights are expected to increase up to 70%. Water supply, wastewater treatment and urban water bodies will face same challenges as by increased temperature but more intense during those days. Similarly, heat waves are projected to be 3 to 4 times higher by the end of the twenty-first century. The result will be that water supply, waste water treatments and urban water bodies will face same challenges as under increased temperature but even more pronounced during those heat wave periods.
An increase in mean precipitation is uncertain according to various climate projection. If this increase will happen the impact on the three program components (water supply, waste water, urban water bodies) will be manageable. However, a decrease in mean precipitation is projected as well according to some climate scenarios. If this will happen then water supply will be at high risk of water shortages by a higher demand from users and a reduction in supply from rivers, streams and in the longer run from groundwater. An increase in daily precipitation extremes is quite likely to happen according to most climate scenario. Risk of additional flooding will increase.
The analysis concluded that since the location where projects will be implemented in the context of this program has to be defined yet, only generic conclusions relevant for the entire country could be provided. It was highly advised that for each specific project that will be implemented a detailed Climate Risk Assessment has to be undertaken.
The SREB is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, being a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. Essentially, the SREB includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. A major part of the SREB traverses Asia’s high-altitude areas, also referred to as the Third Pole or the Asian Water Tower. In the light of the planned development for the SREB traversing the Third Pole and its immediate surroundings, the “Pan-Third Pole Environment study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE)” program will be implemented.
The project will assess the state and fate of water resources in the region under following research themes:
1. Observed and projected Pan-TPE climate change
2. Impacts on the present and future Water Tower of Asia
3. The Green Silk Road and changes in water demand
4. Adaptation for green development
HI-AWARE is one of four consortia of the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA). 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 through the development of robust evidence to inform people-centred and gender-inclusive climate change adaptation policies and practices for improving livelihoods.
Generate scientific knowledge on the biophysical, socio-economic, gender, and governance conditions and drivers leading to vulnerability to climate change;
Develop robust evidence to improve understanding of the potential of adaptation approaches and practices, with an explicit focus on gender and livelihoods;
Develop stakeholder-driven adaptation pathways based on the up- and out-scaling of institutional and on-the-ground adaptation innovations;
Promote the uptake of knowledge and adaptation practices at various scales by decision-makers and citizens; and
Strengthening the interdisciplinary expertise of researchers, students, and related science-policy-stakeholder networks.
HI-AWARE will focus its activities in 12 sites, representing a range of climates, altitudes, hydro-meteorological conditions, rural-urban continuum, and socio-economic contexts in four study basins: the Indus, Upper Ganga, Gandaki and Teesta. It will conduct research in these sites, including modeling, scoping studies, action research, and randomized control trials. It will test promising adaptation measures in observatory labs at the sites for out-scaling and up-scaling. It will also conduct participatory monitoring and assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation practices to identify:
Critical moments – times of the year when specific climate risks are highest and when specific adaptation interventions are most effective;
Adaptation turning points – adaptation turning points – when current policies and management practices are no longer effective and alternative strategies have to be considered; and
Adaptation pathways – sequences of policy actions that respond to adaptation turning points by addressing both short term responses to climate change and longer term planning.
FutureWater’s main tasks focus on biophysical drivers and conditions leading to vulnerability to climate change. Key tasks are to:
Develop detailed mountain specific and basin scale climate change scenarios;
Improve cryosphere-hydrological modeling to assess significant shifts in flow regimes with an aim to develop water demand and supply scenarios as well as improve and apply water-food impact models; and
Better understand climate change impacts on extremes (heat, floods, drought),and quantify these extremes from climate models and subsequently impact models.
Global warming is considered as one of the major threats for the world’s population and coping with it may be one of the largest challenges for this century. Multiple attempts to streamline global policy on climate change mitigation have been made over the past decades, and the “Paris Agreement” which was signed at the 21st Conference of the Parties in 2015 is considered a major breakthrough in formulating adequate measures to tackle climate change. Governments agreed on “a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”, and “to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change”. In response to this development, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish a Special Report on global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and is gathering scientific content for this report.
However, scientific evidence of the impacts of a 1.5 ˚C global warming, and more importantly, the differences in impacts between a 1.5 ˚C and a 2 ˚C global warming, is lacking. Therefore, the scientific community has been mobilized to provide this scientific evidence as input to the special report. FutureWater leads a regional assessment quantifying the impacts of a 1.5 ˚C versus a 2 ˚C global warming for a major global climate change hotspot: the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins in South Asia.
The Ganges is the most populated river basin in the world and is home to half the population of India including two-thirds of the nation’s poor people. The basin provides over one-third of the available surface water in India and is the focus of over half the national water use – 90 percent of this being in irrigation.
The ecological health of the Ganga River and some if its tributaries has deteriorated significantly as a result of high pollution loads, high levels of water abstraction for consumptive use (mostly for irrigation but also for municipal and industrial uses), and other flow regime and river modifications caused by water resources infrastructure (dams and barrages for diverting and regulating the river and generating hydropower).
Water management is largely undertaken at the state level, and there has been no basin-wide effort for volumetric water planning and allocation. With increasing demand for water in multiple sectors a more strategic approach is now warranted. The Government of India has committed to an ambitious goal of rejuvenating the Ganga and is committing significant funds to address the problem. However, in addition to the technical complexity and scale, Ganga rejuvenation is an inherently “wicked problem” given the wide diversity of stakeholder values and perspectives and the political and institutional dimensions that come from distributed responsibilities across multiple jurisdictions and institutions.
The World Bank has assigned Deltares and its partners AECOM India and FutureWater to carry out the project ”Analytical Work and Technical Assistance to support Strategic Basin Planning for Ganga River Basin in India”.
The key objectives of this project are:
Significantly strengthen the capability of relevant central and state government agencies to undertake comprehensive evidence-based strategic basin planning for the Ganga River basin
Develop, document and disseminate (through detailed analytical work and stakeholder engagement) a set of plausible scenarios that balance significantly improving the health of the river and maintaining an acceptable level of economic productivity;
Build stronger and more accessible information and knowledge base to guide on-going dialogue around and management of the Ganga River basin; and
Establish on-going multi-stakeholder engagement processes in the basin to support strategic basin planning.
These objectives will be achieved by:
Developing a detailed and robust water resources planning model for the entire Ganga basin in India and training central and state government engineers and planners in its use;
Characterizing and analysing surface-groundwater interactions across the basin using this information to refine the river modelling;
Undertaking a multi-scale environmental flow assessment across the basin and using these assessments to inform the scenario modelling;
Developing, modelling and disseminating a series of plausible scenarios that explore alternative options for improving water management including improving river health;
Establishing and facilitating a multi-stakeholder consultation process (inside and outside of government) to guide and share the work above; and
Ensuring wide access to the models and analyses and quality documentation of these.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. The Himalayan region (after Antarctica and the Arctic) has the third largest amount of ice and snow in the world, and is exceptionally vulnerable. The various Global Climate Models (GCM) predict very similar future temperature trends for the region, but projections of future precipitation patterns differ widely. As a consequence, the need for increased knowledge about future climate change remains high. The main focus of GCMs thus far was on temperature increases and potential changes to the hydrological cycle. The overall tendency that has emerged is that wetter regions are likely to become wetter and drier regions drier. Increased scientific knowledge, coupled with recent weather events, show that changes in hydrological extreme events can be substantial and the geographical and temporal resolution of predicted changes remains low in many areas.
For Statkraft, as the largest generator of renewable energy in Europe and a leading company in hydropower internationally, an understanding of future changes to the hydrological cycle and its uncertainty is crucial for effective business planning. Investment decisions regarding the business strategy for the next 50 years depend on accurate predictions of climate change impacts on inflow over that period. In addition, changing probabilities and magnitudes of extreme events can put additional risk on infrastructure (dams and hydropower plants) or on other crucial infrastructure (roads and transmission lines). Statkraft’s intention to grow in the region makes it necessary to assess short, medium and long-term impacts, risks and opportunities resulting from climate change, to ensure sustainable management of the water resources for all stakeholders. Currently, Statkraft’s main business focus lies with northern India (mainly the state of Himachal Pradesh) and Nepal, while Bhutan and Myanmar might be areas of future business development as well.
Through the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the inter-governmental learning and knowledge sharing Centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH), 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.
The Indus basin is a densely populated area and water supplied by the Indus River is extremely important for agriculture, domestic use and hydropower production. The Indus is largely dependent on melt water generated in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains. Understanding of the hydrological regimes in the mountainous Upper Indus basin (UIB) is essential for water resources management in the region.
It is highly likely that future climate change will impact future water availability in the Upper Indus river basin. Temperature increases and changes in the timing, magnitude, and phase of precipitation will alter the timing and contribution of snow and ice melt.
High-resolution gridded meteorological datasets, which capture the spatial variability of precipitation, are critical for modelling the hydrology of high-mountain regions. In the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), previous modelling studies have demonstrated that snow and glacier melt are major contributors to stream discharge, and on daily or seasonal scales can play even larger roles. However, hydrologic models suffer from a lack of gridded input climate data which accurately reflects the topographic complexity and spatial variability in precipitation. Improvements to existing gridded datasets using high-elevation station data will increase the reliability of hydrological models in the region. FutureWater’s Spatial Processes in Hydrology (SPHY) model will be updated and recalibrated to improve understanding of the stream flow composition in the basin and to provide better estimates of the future water availability, by forcing the model with downscaled CMIP5 general circulation models.
Summarizing, the three main goals of the project are:
To develop a high-quality meteorological forcing dataset (temperature and precipitation) for the UIB by merging existing gridded datasets and high-altitude climate observations.
To improve the existing large-scale SPHY model by including a reservoir scheme and recalibrating the model with additional observations (geodetic mass balance, time series of river runoff, time series of reservoir inflow data).
To use the recalibrated SPHY model to examine shifts in the basin hydrology under CMIP5 climate change scenarios.