Stein, J.L., and S. Stein, 2013: “Formulating natural hazard policies under uncertainty.” SIAM/ASA Journal on Uncertainty Quantification, doi: 10.1137/120891149.
Uncertainty issues are crucial in assessing the risk posed by natural hazards and developing strategies to mitigate their consequences for society. The challenges are illustrated by the giant earthquake that struck Japan’s Tohoku coast in March, 2011, which was much larger than had been predicted by sophisticated hazard models and so caused a tsunami that overtopped 5—10 m seawalls, causing more than 15,000 deaths and $210 billion damage. Deciding whether to rebuild these defenses and more generally what strategies to employ against such rare events depends on estimating the balance between the costs and benefits of mitigation. Making such estimates is a complex challenge at the intersection of geoscience, mathematics, and economics. The major uncertainty is the probabilities of the rare, extreme events and the waiting or recurrence times between them. The probabilities of these events are difficult to estimate because the physics of earthquake recurrence is not adequately understood, and the short geologic record provides only a few observations. We present a general stochastic model in which the probabilities either are constant with time or depend on the previous history. We then develop models for two hazard policy issues facing Japan. One uses a stochastic model to select an optimum mitigation strategy against future tsunamis by minimizing the sum of the expected present value of the damage, the costs of mitigation, and a risk premium reflecting the variance of the hazard. We also consider whether new nuclear power plants should be built, using a deterministic model that does not require estimating essentially unknown probabilities. These models can be generalized to mitigation policy situations involving other natural hazards.
Jarvis, W.T., 2013: “Water scarcity: Moving beyond indexes to innovative institutions.” Ground Water, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12059.
Water scarcity is a media darling often times described as a trigger of conflict in arid regions, a by-product of human influences ranging from desertification to climate change, or a combination of natural- and human-induced changes in the water cycle. A multitude of indexes have been developed over the past 20 years to define water scarcity to map the “problem” and guide international donor investment. Few indexes include groundwater within the metrics of “scarcity.” Institutional communication contributes to the recognition of local or regional water scarcity. However, evaluations that neglect groundwater resources may incorrectly define conditions as scarce. In cases where there is a perception of scarcity, the incorporation of groundwater and related storage in aquifers, political willpower, new policy tools, and niche diplomacy often results in a revised status, either reducing or even eliminating the moniker locally. Imaginative conceptualization and innovative uses of aquifers are increasingly used to overcome water scarcity.
Foster, S., and H. Garduño, 2013: “Irrigated agriculture and groundwater resources – towards an integrated vision and sustainable relationship.” Water Science and Technology, v. 67, pp. 1165-1172, 10.2166/wst.2013.654.
Globally, irrigated agriculture is the largest abstractor, and predominant consumer, of groundwater resources, with large groundwater-dependent agro-economies now having widely evolved especially in Asia. Such use is also causing resource depletion and degradation in more arid and drought-prone regions. In addition crop cultivation practices on irrigated land exert a major influence on groundwater recharge. The interrelationship is such that cross-sector action is required to agree more sustainable land and water management policies, and this paper presents an integrated vision of the challenges in this regard. It is recognised that ‘institutional arrangements’ are critical to the local implementation of management policies, although the focus here is limited to the conceptual understanding needed for formulation of an integrated policy and some practical interventions required to promote more sustainable groundwater irrigation.
Pahl-Wostl, C., L. Lebel, C. Knieper, and E. Nikitina, 2012: “From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Toward adaptive water governance in river basins.” Environmental Science and Policy, v. 23, pp. 24-34, doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.07.014.
The most persistent obstacles for the sustainable management of water resources lie in the realm of water governance. Numerous recommendations often relying on simplistic ‘standard’ panaceas have been put forward for water governance reform without testing of appropriateness in diverse contexts. Here we present the first comprehensive comparative analysis of complex water governance and management systems in national river basins, compiling insights from 29 basins in developed and developing/emerging countries. To support a generic but contextual diagnostic approach an analytical framework was developed that makes a distinction between water governance regime, regime performance and environmental and socio-economic context. Results provide evidence that polycentric governance regimes characterized by a distribution of power but effective coordination structures have higher performance. This finding is valid for diverse contexts. The results show a weaker and more context dependent influence of legal frameworks on performance. The ability to respond to challenges from climate change is strongly related to polycentric governance and innovative ways for dealing with uncertainty. Furthermore, our results support findings that economic and institutional development often focuses on and leads to fulfilling needs of the human population at the expense of the environment. Rivers in comparatively good condition in countries with poor governance regimes highlight the urgent need to develop effective water governance structures in parallel to economic development.
These exploratory analyses provide valuable methodological and conceptual insights and pave the way for follow-up studies to build a comprehensive knowledge base on complex resource governance systems and diverse management practices worldwide.
Leblanc, M., S. Tweed, A. Van Dijk, and B. Timbal, 2012: “A review of historic and future hydrological changes in the Murray-Darling Basin.” Global and Planetary Change, v. 80-81, no. 1, pp. 226-246, doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2011.10.012.
The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s food bowl and home to many iconic water bodies that are culturally and ecologically highly valued. The recent Millennium Drought (from mid-1990s to 2009) was the most severe hydrological drought since records started in the late 19th century. It severely impacted on the basin and for many acted as a wake-up call. To address the ongoing declines in water resources and environmental conditions and to prepare the region for climate change, Australia’s Governments are currently attempting to introduce a new comprehensive, and integrated approach to the management of the basin’s water resources. In this paper, long-term time series of climate, hydrological and environmental data are used to analyze how compounding stresses have gradually affected the hydrological system and its services. Major hydroclimatic stresses considered in this paper include salinity, water use, droughts, and climate change. Other, more localized or minor stresses exist (groundwater extraction, farm dams, afforestation, bush fires, cyanobacterial blooms and pollutants) and are reviewed more briefly. The history of water policy and planning shows that Government actions have been strongly influential on the basin. A shift in the strategic goals from water development to the protection and restoration of environmental assets is noticeable since the mid 1990s. Median climate change projections by 2030 indicate smaller reductions in rainfall and runoff than those observed during the recent Millennium Drought, but have a relatively high uncertainty attached to them. The use of regional approaches to reduce that uncertainty, such as statistical downscaling, points to a sizeable decline in rainfall by the end of the century. Most climate projections used for planning consider greenhouse emission scenarios that have smaller global emission trends than the one observed over the last decade. Other, ‘less optimistic’ scenarios have to be considered for long-term water planning and food security. Compounding all these stresses, is the naturally high hydroclimatic variability of this semi-arid region, that may have been insufficiently considered during previous water development and planning efforts. Successful water planning will need to balance cultural and ecological values with food production, account for high natural variability and uncertainty in climate change projections, learn from past mistakes and be cognizant of future hydrological changes.
Scott, C.A., 2011: “The water-energy-climate nexus: Resources and policy outlook for aquifers in Mexico.” Water Resources Research, v. 47, paper no. W00L04, doi: 10.1029/2011WR010805.
Three interlinked processes drive groundwater balances in diverse regions globally: (1) groundwater-irrigation intensification, (2) electrical energy supply for agriculture, and (3) climatic variability. Mexico’s water-energy-climate nexus offers generic lessons because of its water scarcity and institutional reforms followed in other emerging economies. This paper analyzes data for 280 aquifers in Mexico, all registered water users, population projections, 2010–2100 precipitation and temperature projections for A1B and A2 emissions scenarios from 15 general circulation models, and 1999–2009 agricultural electricity use. Under A2 emissions, aquifers with negative balances will increase from 92 to 130 in number between 2010 and 2100, and the national groundwater deficit will increase by 21.3 cu km. Under A2 and medium-variant population growth (which peaks midcentury), negative-balance aquifers will increase from 92 to 133, and the national groundwater deficit will increase by 22.4 cu km. Agricultural power pricing offers a nexus-based policy tool to address aquifer depletion, an opportunity that was lost with the 2003 reduction in nighttime tariffs. Under A2, medium-variant population, and simulated 2% real annual increases in agricultural power tariffs, negative-balance aquifers will increase from 92 to 111, and the national groundwater deficit will increase by 17.5 cu km between 2010 and 2100. Regulatory and user-based groundwater management initiatives indicate growing awareness of aquifer depletion; however, the long-term outlook points to continued depletion. This raises the need to harness nexus-based policy options, i.e., increasing agricultural power tariffs, eliminating reduced nighttime tariffs, enforcing legislation linking groundwater extraction to power use, and limiting new power connections for groundwater wells.
Matete, M., and R. Hassan, 2006: “Integrated ecological economics accounting approach to evaluation of inter-basin water transfers: An application to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.” Ecological Economics, v. 60, no. 1, pp. 246-259, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.12.010.
This study developed a generalized analytical framework that can be applied to integrating environmental sustainability aspects into economic development planning in the case of exploiting water resources through inter-basin water transfers (IBWT). The study developed and applied a multi-country ecological social accounting matrix (MC-ESAM) for Lesotho and SA to evaluate the ecological implications of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) and their consequent economic costs and benefits for the two countries. The study further used the developed MC-ESAM multipliers to analyze the impact of lost ecological services downstream the LHWP dams in Lesotho on the well-being of households directly affected by the project in Lesotho and the general economies of Lesotho and SA. The results revealed that while the LHWP has significant direct and indirect benefits in terms of social and economic development in Lesotho and SA, the project has serious unintended impacts on ecological resources and services, with deleterious well-being implications for populations residing within the reaches of the LHWP rivers and downstream the LHWP dams in Lesotho. The empirical analysis results showed relatively small impacts in general, but were significant for groups of people directly affected by the project in Lesotho. An important limitation of the empirical contributions of the study relates to the inability to measure and include in the analyses values of critical other ecosystem services of affected freshwater resources. Nevertheless, the study demonstrated the importance of integrated ecological economic accounting for comprehensive assessment of IBWT projects’ impacts.
Savenije, H.H.G., and P. Van der Zaag, 2008: “Integrated water resources management: Concepts and issues.” Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, v. 33, no. 5, pp. 290-297, doi: 10.1016/j.pce.2008.02.003.
After the describing the historical developments that led the development of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), the paper defines this important concept. It subsequently deals with the thorny issue of water security as well as water conflict, after which the major issues over which thus far no consensus has been achieved are briefly reviewed. The paper concludes with an analysis of the role of the IAHS International Commission on Water Resources Systems (ICWRS) in promoting IWRM.
Gourbesville, P., 2008: “Challenges for integrated water resources management.” Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, v. 33, no. 5, pp. 284-289, doi: 10.1016/j.pce.2008.02.002.
During the past century, while world population tripled, the use of water increased sixfold. Irrigation accounts for 70% of global water withdrawals, industry for 20%, and municipal use for 10%. To meet the water resources challenges, a series of transitions is under way, with major implications for water management. The present paper underlines the major issues and the new role of engineers in charge of development and project management.
Olem, H., and A.M. Duda, 1995: “International watercourses: The World Bank looks toward a more comprehensive approach to management.” Water Science and Technology, v. 31, no. 8, pp. 345-352, doi: 10.1016/0273-1223(95)00386-2.
This paper examines transboundary water resources management challenges currently being faced across the globe. Lessons learned from Europe, Africa, Asia and North America are outlined on the need for more integrated, ecosystem-based management of these international watercourses and on institutional arrangements for improving management. The World Bank’s new Water Resources Management Policy is presented with an emphasis on elements related to a more comprehensive approach that considers integrated land-water management, proper pricing for water service delivery, nonpoint pollution abatement, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and institution building. Also described is a key international funding mechanism for more comprehensively managing international watercourses known as the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Restructured and replenished in 1994, GEF can play a catalytic role in building institutions for better water resources management and in fostering cooperative actions among nations in a basin toward the ultimate goal of making development more environmentally sustainable.