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Adapting water management schemes to climate change

Beautiful yet fragile, alpine ecosystems are the jewel of Europe’s mountainous regions yet rising global temperatures are threatening the health of the Alps as well as other mountain ranges across the globe. Fortunately, new research is demonstrating how these areas can be better protected.
Adapting water management schemes to climate change
As the climate heats up, glaciers are receding, the snowpack is melting and less water is reaching downstream. The result is that water management plans put in place years ago to address drinking water, agriculture, hydropower and other uses may no longer be valid.

A team of experts from Europe and South Asia took up the challenge of reassessing the Upper Danube river basin (UDRB) and the Upper Brahmaputra river basin (UBRB) in Southeast Asia. Funding for the project, titled 'Twinning European and South Asian river basins to enhance capacity and implement adaptive integrated water resources management approaches' (Brahmatwinn), was provided by the EU.

Global climate models were downsized to forecast the impact of climate change at the scale of a river basin. Since continued warming was predicted, additional models were used to examine potential changes in land use and land cover as well as flood risk. Indicators of sustainable water quality and quantity were subsequently defined and evaluated for different future scenarios.

The Brahmatwinn research culminated in the development of an integrated land and water resources management system (ILWRMS). In addition to the various models, stakeholder preferences and regulatory aspects were also incorporated. The ILWRMS provides governmental agencies with a decision support tool for designing countermeasures to address the threat of climate change.

Initial tests with the ILWRMS were performed for the UDRB and UBRB. Feedback was positive and highlighted a number of important issues, such as the importance of early planning for flood protection. This knowledge will be used to modify existing water management regimes to cope with climate change in the decades to come.

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