In an Uncertain World, Planning for Floods and Droughts is Critical
Floods and droughts have always occurred, but now, in almost every corner of the world, we face flood and drought events that are increasingly common, more severe and less predictable. This is being driven by climate change, but also impacted by a growing global population, urbanisation, changing land use, and increased demand for water from agriculture and industry. In flood and drought terms, we face the perfect storm.
Floods and droughts are no respecters of geography or wealth. Whether the record-breaking drought in California, or devastating floods in Southern Africa that saw 400 percent higher rainfall than usual in 2015, this is a global issue with impacts at the local level. As concerns around the impacts of flood and drought events continue to grow, there is a need for more investment to support stakeholders to manage and plan for the impacts, from the city utility scale to the basin scale.
This is particularly complex in transboundary river basins where two or more countries share both water resources and the risks associated with flood and drought events. This requires land, water and urban area managers across the basin to improve their understanding of flood and drought impacts, to prepare for water related risks by integrating scientifically sound information into their planning processes, and to cooperate and collaborate across basins.
The Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT) project recognises this critical need. Working with stakeholders in three pilot basins – the Chao Phraya in Thailand, Lake Victoria in East Africa and the Volta in West Africa – it aims to include information on climate change and land use changes into existing planning approaches to improve the ability to recognise and address the increased frequency, magnitude and unpredictability of flood and drought events.
The project is developing a computer software-based planning tool, a Decision Support System (DSS), collating multiple sources of flood and drought information in one flexible user-friendly interface. This allows users to visualise the information and analyse it to make more sound information-based decisions and plans. The development of a planning DSS and associated tools, such as a web portal for downloading climate data derived from remote sensing, is driven by the needs of the project stakeholders.
Developing initiatives that bring together technological solutions and multiple stakeholders with different problems and needs has inherent risks. If the time and resources devoted to the initiative are not to be wasted, the tools must offer clear benefits, be acceptable and easy to use for stakeholders; and stakeholders must be motivated to help make the project a success.
The FDMT project has carried out a series of technical trainings in the pilot basins intended to transfer knowledge of the functionality of the planning DSS to users. These are essential in further developing the planning DSS and ensuring sustainability beyond the project time frame. Following the first technical training held in November 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, further technical trainings were held in Kisumu, Kenya and Accra, Ghana. The trainings brought together key stakeholders from basin, country and local level, including basin organisations, catchment organisation, utilities, national institutes and international organisations, around a common planning tool.
The trainings gave an opportunity to test and comment on the DSS functionally, suggesting areas for improvement, helping avoid redundant components, identifying missing features and ensuring stakeholder needs are addressed. Training exercises focused on planning, and linking planning with tools to analyse drought impacts and tools for seasonal forecasting and climate projections.
By highlighting the need for a cross agency approach, where data collectors, regulators, and other stakeholders need to cooperate in their efforts to manage impacts; and showing how information can be easily visualised and analysed to feed into decision making and planning for droughts and floods, the DSS is a step closer to helping users understand flood and drought vulnerability from a climate change perspective. This will help improve decision making to reduce risks and mitigate the consequences of an uncertain world.
The FDMT project is a Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinated project, in which DHI and the International Water Association (IWA) are implementing partners.
The reports from the technical trainings in Kisumu and Accra will be available on the project website. If you would like to know more about the project or have specific questions on the trainings, please do not hesitate to contact the FDMT team.