Adaptation and Water Resources

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Chris R. de Freitas

Abstract Adaptation to climate change in the water sector, especially changes in water management practices, will have a very significant impact on how future climate affects the water sector. The chapter starts out by describing the range of adaptive options that are available to water managers faced with changing circumstances. One classification distinguishes between "supply-side" and "demand-side" options. Another classification scheme proposed here distinguishes between 1) technological, 2) behavioural, 3) economic and 4) legal adaptive measures to manage and extend water resources. The chapter summarise these adaptive options. It assumes that the relative merits of one adaptive technique over another can be characterized in terms of the benefits and costs of the adaptation, across a spectrum of no effect ("no adaptation" or "wrong choice of adaptation") to perfectly effective ("adaptation sufficient to eliminate all effects of climate change") at an optimal level of cost effectiveness. There is also the issue of conflicting choices.

Assessment of impacts of climate change on water resources requires knowledge of future climate as well as methods capable of transforming this knowledge into likely biophysical and societal impacts. Current methods of impact assessment, however, are hampered by the unreliability of regional climate forecasts and by the incompatibility of these forecasts with the analytical tools needed to assess impacts at a scale that is useful for planning purposes. In particular, there is a mismatch between the temporal and spatial scales of available climate forecasts and the data required for impact assessment. Problems and methodologies that may cope with them are discussed. Two regions, New Zealand and the tropical Pacific, are used to illustrate application of the methods to assessment of water resources. The best adaptation strategies will depend on the impact potential of a given change in climate. This in turn will depend on the overall sensitivity of a particular water supply or demand unit to those aspects of climate that do change.

C.R. de Freitas

School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

K.L. Ebi et al. (eds.), Biometeorology for Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change, 195 © Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

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