Mapping the Resilience of International River Basins to Future Climate Change-Induced Water Variability
Transboundary watercourses pose a variety of challenges to the management of water resources. Basin-wide management approaches often clash with state sovereignty. Efforts in cooperatively managing shared water resources are therefore of great importance for the sustainable management of transboundary river and lake basins. The World Bank has long been engaged in transboundary water resources management starting with the support to the establishment of the Indus Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 and followed by numerous other important initiatives and projects on transboundary watercourses. Climate change adds new challenges to the management of water resources. Increased hydrological variability will have a significant impact on all dimensions of water use and water management, including greater uncertainty and an increase in extreme events such as floods and droughts.
The World Bank has therefore commissioned the authors of this report to investigate the specific interactions between transboundary water resources management and climate change. This aims at increasing our knowledge of exposure to climate change-induced variability across different river and lake basins and resilience of the institutions established to co-operatively manage shared water resources. Such an understanding is a prerequisite for proper design of future specific measures to adapt cooperative water resources management to future challenges in a changing and uncertain climate. The results of the report reveal significant differences in institutional resilience to climate change induced water variability across transboundary basins, with some basins being fairly resilient to climate change on all five dimensions identified as decisive for climate change resilience while others, especially in EAP and LCR, face a range of challenges. While water treaties and RBOs are relatively common in transboundary river basins, specific variability management mechanisms are often lacking. Moreover, several CBUs have been identified in which high hydrological exposure and a lack of adaptation mechanisms fall together, indicating a particular risk of climate change induced challenges and calling for policy action. Some basins with particularly high probability of water stress have been identified for further study.
In addition, several issues have been identified that merit further research. These include a more detailed study of climate change forecast than applied in the study, especially with regard to intra-annual variability and the different indices of changes, more case-specific analysis of water treaties and RBOs taking into account the specific institutional components influencing resilience, and the inclusion of contextual non-treaty determinants influencing cooperation between riparian states and thus resilience. Based on this, the World Bank will continue its contribution to the study of the link between transboundary water resources management and climate change in the future, contributing to the sustainable management of transboundary waters.
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