Most recent research has focused on identifying historical megadroughts based on paleo-records and understanding their climatic causes, or on the study of “modern” events and their impacts, generally in lowland and plain regions. However, high-mountain regions and snow-dependent catchments have been little studied, and little is known about the impact of megadroughts on the state and dynamics of the cryosphere in mountain water towers.  

In general, catchments dependent on high mountain systems have an intrinsic capacity to buffer the lack of precipitation and excess evapotranspiration that depends on the water reserves stored in the cryosphere (snow, glaciers and permafrost). It is presumed that the this buffer capacity is limited until a tipping point is reached from which the impacts of water shortages and temperature extremes may be amplified and jeopardize the functioning of ecosystems and water resource systems. 

MegaWat has a two-fold objective: 1) to address the knowledge gaps around the hydro-climatic causes of extreme droughts and their impact on the water balance of Europe’s mountain water towers, with special emphasis on the concurrence of compound events and cascading and multi-scale effects, and 2) to develop and propose new adaptation strategies to cope with the duration, extent and severity of future megadroughts and their potential impacts on environmental and socio-economic assets.  

For its implementation, MegaWat focuses on Europe’s high mountain regions and their dependent-catchments. MegaWat aims to develop three products:  

  • Product 1. A methodological framework for the identification and characterization of historical megadroughts during the instrumental period, and the assessment of the role of the cryosphere in supporting the landscape development of downstream areas, or in buffering climate change impacts. Product 1 relies on a combination of climate regionalization, surface energy balance modelling, hydrological simulation, and water evaluation and allocation analysis at the catchment level (Figure 1).  
  • Product 2. A high-resolution, open-access regionalized climate database.  
  • Product 3. A list of potential adaptation strategies useful for the prevention and mitigation of drought impacts, and the enhancement of the water security and resilience of high mountain regions and dependent catchments. These scenarios will be agreed with regional and local actors and stakeholders, and their effectiveness will be evaluated under extreme drought scenarios in three pilot regions in Europe. These pilot regions will be previously selected following criteria of representativeness, strategic importance and vulnerability to droughts.  

FutureWater plays an important role in MegaWat by coordinating the Work Package which aims to develop and test simulation tools that help to adapt to megadroughts and support the decision making process. Two specific objectives are pursued in this Work Package: a) the development of a methodological prototype for quantifying impacts and identifying tipping points for water security in snow-dependent downstream catchments, and b) the generation and the integration of snow drought indicators in the FW’s Drought Early Warning System called InfoSequia (Figure 2). 

Schematic representation of a high mountain basin, including the main components, processes and impacts related to droughts. 
Workflow of the InfoSequia Early Warning System developed by FutureWater and adapted for the detection of tipping-points of water scarcity in snow-dependent catchments. More information about InfoSequia.

One-pager can be downloaded here.

Aknowledgements  

This project has received funding from the Water4All programme with co-funding from CDTI (Spanish Office for Science and Technology) and the EU’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation”. 

The regional knowledge and support technical assistance project “Delivering a Climate Change Strategy for Central and West Asia” supports the delivery of a Climate Change Strategy and an Action Plan for Central and West Asia to strengthen integration of climate change considerations in Asian Development Banks (ADB) financed interventions in the developing member countries (DMCs) of the region.

The project prepares robust climate mitigation and adaptation pipelines aligned with the Paris Agreement and responsive to DMCs climate change priorities. The TA will support interventions on departmental, sectoral and country levels with key activities including development of a regional strategy, upstream climate assessments, climate pipeline development, government dialogues and capacity building. As part of this project, FutureWater conducts a regional climate risk assessment for ten countries. This includes an assessment of baseline and future climate hazards, exposure and vulnerability and addressing sectoral impacts and adaptation options for a wide range of sectors. In addition country profiles summarizing climate risks for the ten countries are generated. The reginal climate risk assessment feeds into the climate strategy.

Analysis of the historical climate data and future model projections indicates significant shifts in rainfall patterns. These shifts could influence water availability within the upstream river basins, which are vital for irrigation practices and ecological balance. Furthermore, the study explores variations in temperature -including average, minimum, and maximum values- and evaluates their potential consequences on water demand due to increased evaporation rates and altered crop water needs.

Additionally, this scoping research touches upon the effects of these climatic factors on olive crop phenology and productivity. The study also considers the likelihood of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and droughts, and their potential to disrupt traditional farming cycles and water resource management strategies.

The outcomes of this analysis are aimed at providing an olive producing firm with insights and strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on olive production in these targeted regions of Andalucia. By foreseeing potential challenges and preparing for them, a decision can be made on whether to invest or not in order to maintain a leading olive producer on the global stage.

Urban flood management in Laos is typically based on a limited, hard infrastructure approach. With the aim to shift this paradigm towards an integrated approach that enhances climate resilience, the project “Building resilience of urban populations with ecosystem-based solutions in Lao PDR” was approved by the Green Climate Fund Board in November 2019 with a GCF grant of US$10 million. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) serves as the Accredited Entity for the project. Activities are executed by the State of Lao PDR through the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) as well as UNEP. The project is implemented across five years (2020-2025) covering four provincial capitals in the country: Vientiane, Paksan, Savannakhet, and Pakse.

One component of the project involves technical and institutional capacity building to plan, design, implement and maintain integrated urban Ecosystems-based Adaptation (EbA) interventions for the reduction of climate change induced flooding. As a part of Integrated Climate-resilient Flood Management Strategy (ICFMS) development, the project conducts hydrological, hydraulic and climate risk assessments to inform climate change adaptation solutions for risk reduction in Vientiane, Paksan, Savannakhet and Pakse.

A consortium of FutureWater, Mekong Modelling Associates (MMA) and Lao Consulting Group (LCG) was contracted by MONRE to implement the related activities. FutureWater leads and coordinates this assignment and contributes remote sensing analyses with state-of-the-art innovative tools, climate risk assessments, and training activities. To ensure sustainability and effective technology transfer, the modelling and mapping infrastructure and trained staff will be hosted within MONRE and a knowledge hub that is established within the National University of Laos.

 

FutureWater will develop a high-level climate change and adaptation assessment for Turkmenistan to strengthen the water and agriculture sector’s resilience against climate change. The work involves a detailed hazard mapping exercise, employing observational and satellite-based information, to identify climate-related risks such as droughts, water scarcity, heat, salinity, erosion, and floods. These mapped hazards will be synthesized at the administrative level, presenting a comprehensive visual representation through figures and tables.

Key exposure and vulnerability datasets will be mapped, and pertinent sources for subsequent collection and analysis will be identified, setting the stage for a detailed risk assessment beyond the scope of work. The key output of this effort is the assembly of an inventory of climate adaptation measures gleaned from existing reports and official documents, contextualized to Turkmenistan’s unique circumstances, and an initial gap and opportunity assessment based on this inventory.

Based on the assessment, the adaptation options will be categorized and an initial prioritization will take place based on each option’s potential to mitigate risks across various hazards, its capacity for impactful outcomes beyond local scales, and a relative indication of expected cost-effectiveness. The outcome should provide a foundation for an integrated climate adaptation project. Concurrently, FutureWater will engage in country consultations, collaborating with stakeholders to confirm or refine identified adaptation options. These consultations will also explore potential synergies with ongoing and planned projects initiated by both the government and development partners.

As part of the FAO’s Asia-Pacific Water Scarcity Programme (WSP), FutureWater conducts a scoping study to identify opportunities to improve sustainable water resources management in the country. Following this scoping assessment, FutureWater develops bankable investment concept notes for activities to strengthen national capacities to implement policy actions that prepare Mongolia for a water scarce future. As part of the project, a high level stakeholder consultation forum with key government stakeholders and development partners is organized to validate the findings of the assessment and prioritize the investment concepts.

Mongolia has a strong commitment to IWRM, as defined in the 2012 Water Law, and good progress has been made. This includes the establishment of river basin organizations (RBOs) to manage the 29 river basins in the country. Currently, there are 21 operational RBOs. However, these bodies lack the experience needed for implementation of their tasks. Training and professional development of employees of the water basin authorities are of the utmost importance, to enable them to implement the assigned tasks and be better positioned for advancing implementation of Target 6.5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

To achieve the objectives the project has a technical component and stakeholder engagement component. On the technical side, hydrological models will be updated and validated. Climate change scenarios will be used as inputs for the testing of adaptation strategies within the Limpopo Basin. The adaptation include traditional grey infrastructure and additionally nature based solutions. The benefits analysis of the adaptation measure will cover macro and micro socio-economical benefits.

The results of this study will then be used to inform the development of a first-generation Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) for the Limpopo River Basin (LRB). Through this, the individual basin countries will agree on a set of transboundary development priorities for the basin, which will guide both transboundary and national investments in the future, through a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) and National Action Plans (NAPs).

Within the project we cooperate with the hydrologists of ARA-Norte to discuss and establish the baseline for a water system analysis in the Monapo Catchment. Following discussion and mapping sessions, FutureWater is developing a Water Allocation Model in WEAP that includes climate change scenarios and mitigation and adaptation measures to asses the water availability of the catchment. Part of the assignment includes continuous training to local professional, to ensure the application of the developed model in the analysis of the system and elaborating specific proposal for implementation in the region.

The objective is to support the delineation and launching of a a Watershed Investment Program to improve multi-stakeholder collaboration and sustainable funding mechanisms to protect and restore riparian buffer zones and to implement runoff attenuation features to reduce eroded sediments entering the river.

To support the science streams, FutureWater is applying open source tools such as INVEST and RIOS Tool, together with Remote Sensing analysis to elaborate on a NbS opportunity mapping analysis. Besides, we aim to provide quantitative results on NbS benefits to reduce sediment loads entering the river system.

Countries in Asia and the Pacific region are significantly exposed to disaster risks from various hazards and are on the frontline of a climate emergency. Studies suggest that 80% of the globally affected people belong to the Asia-Pacific region, thus emphasizing the critical need for an effective multi-hazard EWS.

EWS, a cost-effective tool for saving lives and reducing economic losses, is particularly crucial for frequent and hazardous weather, water, and climate events. However, despite advancements in the four EWS components, major gaps persist, with implementation lagging and limited coverage in frontline countries, including least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS). As of 2021, only 50% of countries in Asia and the Pacific reported having multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS), emphasizing the need for support.

The culmination of these efforts will be encapsulated in a scoping report, documenting the results of the project, including consultations with key partners and stakeholders during the Regional Workshop on Increasing Investments in Early Warning Systems, to be held in February 2024 in Bangkok, Thailand. The study will offer a comprehensive summary of the EWS scoping, encompassing the policy and institutional landscape, status, initiatives, and investments, as well as residual gaps for regional and national EWS programming in selected DMCs. Additionally, this study will provide guidelines for the implementation and operationalization of the proposed EWS facility, along with initial investment concept notes based on EWS priorities at regional and/or national levels. This holistic approach aims to contribute substantively to the strengthening of EWS capacities, fostering resilience in the face of increasing disaster risks across the region.