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HighNoon: adaptation to changing water resources availability in northern India with Himalayan glacier retreat and changing monsoon pattern

Final Report Summary - HIGHNOON (HighNoon: adaptation to changing water resources availability in northern India with Himalayan glacier retreat and changing monsoon pattern)

Executive summary:
HighNoon: Adaptation to changing water resources availability in northern India with Himalayan glacier retreat and changing monsoon is an EU-funded project under framework 7 and is carried out as a collaboration between European, Indian and Japanese research organisations and universities.

The HighNoon project aimed to assess the impact of Himalayan glaciers retreat and possible changes of the Indian summer monsoon on the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources in northern India. The project further provided recommendations for strategies that strengthen the cause for adaptation to hydrological extreme events through a participatory process.

The main research aspects of HighNoon are:
-Developing scenarios for snowmelt and monsoon patterns based on improved regional climate simulations.
-Developing realistic regional socio-economic scenarios and assess the changing water resources using regional models.
-Providing new methods for the prioritisation of adaptation measures to be used as a design tool in the selection of adaptation options.
-Participative development of specific multi-sector adaptation measures in consultation with stakeholders.

HighNoon applied a trans disciplinary research approach to climate change adaptation. Knowledge on climate change and climate variability of stakeholders at different levels was integrated with scientific knowledge derived from improved regional climate modelling and socio-economic scenario development.

Stakeholders have been involved at different scales, ranging from individual farm level to national government. The main findings of the project can be summarised as:
-A gradual wide-spread warming over northern India is projected by Regional Climate Models (RCM). Temperature is expected to increase for the Ganges basin on average by about 2oC by 2050 and 4oC by 2100, and be more pronounced over mountainous areas.
-Annual total precipitation changes across northern India are less certain. Against a backdrop of considerable decadal variability, the slight increase in precipitation to 2050 indicated by the RCMs is unlikely to be significant.
-The expected continuation of glacier shrinkage in most parts of the Himalayan mountain ranges is confirmed by innovative modelling of glaciers at a large scale within RCMs.
-It is unlikely that the next decades will see dramatic changes in total runoff, but continued glacier shrinkage will increase the seasonality of runoff, especially upstream (within 200 km of the Glaciers).
-Drought conditions are expected to be exacerbated by 2050 as a result of higher temperatures and fewer rain days.
-Yields of existing varieties of both rice and wheat are projected to decline, with greater reductions in upstream regions, as negative impacts of higher temperatures offset positive effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations.
-Stakeholders report increases in temperatures across the Ganges basin, nights becoming warmer, length of winter shorter, variability in rainfall greater and extreme events, mostly related to drought, more frequent.
-In upstream regions, where stakeholders expect climate change to increase flood risk, adaptation measures to prevent flood damage are highly prioritized. In mid- and downstream regions of the Ganges basin, stakeholders anticipate droughts and lowering of the water table, leading them to prioritize measures to maintain groundwater levels, and to develop water harvesting and water use efficiency.

HighNoon results have been communicated to both Indian and EU policy makers at various occasions, and a comprehensive HighNoon Policy brief was published. Results are communicated to the scientific community through peer reviewed papers and conferences. Results are available from the HighNoon website:

Project Context and Objectives:

The hydrological system of Northern India is based on two main phenomena, the monsoon precipitation in summer and the growth and melt of the snow and ice cover in the Himalaya, also called the 'Water Tower of Asia'. Climate change is expected to change these phenomena and it will have a profound impact on snow cover, glaciers and its related hydrology, water resources and the agricultural economy on the Indian peninsula. Especially the perennial rivers in the north, Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra, are susceptible to climate change as they originate from the Himalayas. Climate change is projected to have a short term and long term impact on the hydrological system.

The challenge

Recent work indicates that time-slice experiments using an AGCM with prescribed SSTs, as opposed to a fully coupled system, are not able to accurately capture the South Asian monsoon response. The hydrological effects of climate change can best be obtained from hydrological models which have the advantage over GCMs that they can incorporate regional characteristics and climatic variations. Three-member ensembles of baseline simulations (1961-1990) from a RCM (PRECIS) at 50 km resolution have confirmed that significant improvements in the representation of regional processes over South Asia can be achieved.

It is a great challenge to integrate the spatial and temporal glacier retreat and snowmelt and changed monsoon pattern in weather prediction models under different climate scenarios. Furthermore, the output of these models will have an effect on the input of the hydrological models. The retreat of glaciers and a possible change in monsoon precipitation and pattern will have a great impact on the temporal and spatial availability of water resources in Northern India. Besides climate change, socio-economic development will also have an influence on the use of water resources, the agricultural economy and the adaptive capacity. Socio-economic development determines the level of adaptive capacity. It is a challenge to find appropriate adaptation strategies with stakeholders for each of the sectors agriculture, energy, health and water supply by assessing the impact outputs of the hydrological and socio-economical models.

The HighNoon approach and objectives

The principal aim of the project is to assess the impact of Himalayan glaciers retreat and possible changes of the Indian summer monsoon on the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources in Northern India and to provide recommendations for appropriate and efficient response strategies that strengthen the cause for adaptation to hydrological extreme events. The objectives can be summarised as:

-To integrate available climate- and hydrological data, and state-of-the art regional models.
-To study the changes under various climate change scenarios and to analyse consequential impacts on water resources in particular on changes in snow and glacier melting and changed spatial-temporal monsoon patterns
-To determine socio-economic scenarios and reliable boundary conditions per physical or administrative unit for planning of adaptation measures
-To understand the current coping strategies in place covering both upstream, mid-stream and downstream sites and investigate impacts on water quantity, water quality, socio economic aspects, and adaptive capacity
-To develop a stakeholder driven applicable and cross-sector plan of action for adaptation measures in the field of water supply, agriculture, energy and health
-To estimate the cost effectiveness of the various measures proposed
-To understand the cross sector interaction of measures and their cross category impact on water quantity, water quality and socio economy, and adaptive capacity.

Beyond state-of-the-art

The HighNoon project will target a significant progress in the state of art by combining innovative efforts in the field of:
(i) improving the regional simulation of climate change conditions including the consideration of feedback mechanisms from glacier retreat and evapotranspiration on the climate
(ii) providing new methods for the prioritization of measures, and
(iii) finally using this knowledge in a true participative development of specific multi-sector adaptation measures:

-Regional climate modelling, and forecasting snow- and ice-melt and monsoon precipitation patterns.

To study properly the impacts of future climate change on the vulnerability of water resources in India, it is important to improve the capacity of models both to simulate the South Asian monsoon and to relate runoff to climate and glacier melting and retreat. In addition it is important to incorporate different feedbacks into the models. Within the HighNoon project, climate model improvement will focus on developing the simulation of feedback between glacier retreat and the atmosphere. In addition, we will study how the impacts of changing snow cover and changing monsoon patterns interact to influence the overall precipitation pattern of the Indian subcontinent. To do this, we will improve and use two prominent regional climate models (Precis and Remo) at a high resolution. By using two different RCMs we will be better able to determine model uncertainties.

In order to investigate the potential feedback mechanisms of the adaptation measures to global change, it is necessary to evaluate those measures in an integrative framework taking into account climate change as well as socio-economic changes. With IMAGE (Bouwman et al., 2006) it will be possible to simulate the impacts of adaptation measures on upstream-downstream impact relations in food production and water stress for other sectors. The innovation here will be twofold, first to assure the consistency amongst scales in translating the adaptation measures to regional scale, making use of the knowledge and experience at the field scale. Second, to test the robustness of the chosen strategy in a fully integrated framework.

-Prioritization of water resources allocation and adaptation measures

Until now, the concept of equity and search for trade-offs or compromises had largely influenced the water resources management. Facing the severity of climate change impact, droughts and floods in the North West of India, new methods have to be found to make a judgement of prioritizations by policy makers transparent and understandable to people.

The Indian context, with its uncertainty with regard to changing runoff and monsoon patterns provides an interesting opportunity to go beyond the state of the art in prioritization methods with the WaterWise application. The methodology will be improved with a new approach to uncertainty in boundary conditions (using a kind of embedded ensemble modelling). This will make it possible to analyze different adaptation measures and preferences not only given one standard rainfall and runoff pattern but under a range of climate patterns and to find the most suitable option also in terms of robustness and vulnerability.

-Participative development of adaptation measures

The HighNoon project acknowledges that oftentimes the prioritization of adaptation measures will be influenced by power differences, conflict and politics. The stakeholder identification and analysis will explicitly address the issue of power differences. Moreover, a negotiation perspective will be applied. Future oriented methods will be used to assist the negotiation process by widening stakeholders' views on options and their consequences.

Project Results:

HighNoon main S & T results

HighNoon applied a transdisciplainary research approach to climate change adaptation. Knowledge on climate change and climate variability of stakeholders at different levels was integrated with scientific knowledge derived from improved regional climate modelling and socio-economic scenario development.

WP1 Climatic boundary conditions and scenarios

The Climate scenarios work package aimed to provide a high quality data set of regional climate information for the Indian subcontinent that includes a measure of climatic uncertainty. This data set contained variables necessary to run offline impacts models such as water resource and crop models as well as direct climate information on projected temperature, precipitation and changes in the cryosphere and on the Monsoon. Projected impacts of climate on the Indian Summer Monsoon are highly uncertain, a secondary aim of the work program was to assess the uncertainty in the available climate simulations in terms of their ability to capture the atmospheric processes related to the Monsoon and also the projected changes. Including as assessment of uncertainty in the data sets used with the impacts models is crucial if the impact studies are to inform adaptation policy. Adaptation policy needs to be flexible in the face of climate and socio-economic uncertainty if adaptation policy is to be robust. A further issue encountered is the bias in the simulations of the state of the current climate. Attempts were made to assess and understand this bias and an additional dataset of bias corrected climate data have been produced that are available for climate impacts modeling.

The Climate Scenarios work package has produced the most detailed and extensive set of regional climate projections currently available for use in climate impact modeling and informing adaptation policy. The projections show a consistent warming trend over Northern India of between 1.5 and 3°C by the 2050s, relative to 1970-2000. Projected changes in Monsoon and annual precipitation are much more uncertain spanning a possible increase to decrease. However, the current consensus is for an increase to be more likely but extensive variability is also seen with projected periods of increasing and decreasing precipitation. The substantial decadal variability in the Monsoon system is likely to be very important to water resource management adaptation plans which will need to be robust to multi-decadal uncertain climate change as well as decadal periods of both increasing and decreasing water resource availability.

Downscaling global climate projections to the region is an extremely computationally expensive task. Often, the downscaling requires more computational power than the original global runs. The climate scenario work package downscaled two global scenarios of climate change from the Hadley Centre HadCM3 and Max Planck ECHAM5 GCMs under the SRES A1B scenario for the Indian subcontinent. These two models have demonstrable skill at simulating the atmospheric properties and circulation related to the Indian Summer Monsoon. The two global simulations were downscaled using the Hadley Centre HadRM3 and Max Planck REMO regional climate models. This approach of downscaling to GCMs with two RCMs was designed to capture some of the uncertainty in the global climate as well the uncertainty associated with downscaling. The high resolution of the RCM simulations (25 km) were able to capture the role of the steep Himalayan topography on moisture transport.

WP2 Snow and Glacier originated run-off generation

WP2 dealt with glacier melt and snow and glacier runoff formation in glacierised headwater basins of the Indian Himalaya and for neighbouring Nepal. Modeling runoff from glaciers and glacierised areas requires climatic data as inputs both to generate winter snow cover and subsequently to melt that snow cover during summer months.

Available climatic, hydrological and glaciological data for parameter optimisation and glacier runoff model verification are sparse in the Indian Himalaya. Three-dimensional structure and ice volume is known only for the small Dokriani Bamak. Discharge from highly-glacierised basins has been measured at Dokriani and at the much larger Gangotri glacier for about 20 and 5 years respectively. Only four years of mass balance data are available for Chhota Shigri glacier, but discharge in that basin has not been measured. Changes in glacier dimensions are best obtained from repeat remotely-sensed imagery, and information is required concerning the Little Ice Age maximum dimensions of glaciers, depletion from which has already augmented runoff.

The occurrence of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in the Himalayas increased during the second half of the 20th century. In future, as glaciers recede further in response to climatic warming, the number and volume of potentially-hazardous moraine-dammed lakes in the Himalayas will likely increase. How much water is likely to be stored, and for how long before release in GLOFs, will affect downstream water availability. In the mountain areas, serious loss of life and massive destruction of villages, water supply and hydropower infrastructure as well as agricultural land has resulted from GLOFs in various parts of the Himalaya. Many of these lakes are in an unstable condition.

WP3 Regional and national socio-economic dynamics

The project developed socio economic scenarios for the Ganges basin, based on global and local socio economic scenarios. Global scale socioeconomic scenarios have been developed based on comprehensive modeling studies to understand changes in the population and its corresponding demand on food and water resources. Those scenarios have been downscaled for India and the Ganges basin. High resolution scenarios at district scale have been created for population, economic development, food and water demand. These scenarios are not modeled, but have taken recently observed trends in population and economic development into account. Results from both methodologies were compared.

To assess the combined effect of climate change and socio economic changes on agricultural water resources, a hydrology and vegetation model was used. This model was forced with climate change scenarios from WP1 and land use scenarios reflecting an increased food demand. The resulting increase in irrigation demand was calculated and the water availability to fulfil this demand was estimated. Subsequently, the effect of two adaptation measures was evaluated: an overall improvement of the irrigation efficiency and an increase of storage capacity in large dams. It was found that in the Ganges water scarcity will mainly take place in areas where additional storage would not help, because it would not fill up. This basin shall benefit more from improved irrigation efficiency. It was also concluded that the large scale model used in this study is suitable to identify hot spot areas and support the first step in the policy process, but final design of adaptation measures requires supporting studies at finer scales.

Socio economic scenarios

The first task of the WP was to develop socio economic scenarios for the Ganges basin. Therefore a two way approach was developed. First, an inventory of existing global scale scenarios was made and that was first zoomed in to India.

According to these global scenarios:
-The UN projects a population increase for India from around 1.2 billion today until 1.6 billion in 2050
-India would see growth rates of approximately 7 % per year in the first years towards 4 % during 2020-2030
-India will need approximately one million sq km additional cropland to be able to produce enough food crops for its growing population
-The total crop production should almost double between 2010 and 2050
-Water use in India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh) will see an increase of 18%
-The increase in number of people living under water stress in India is mainly driven by population changes (changes in withdrawal), and not so much by climate change yet.

Then an elaborate inventory of existing local scale scenarios is developed for population, economic growth, food, water and health care demand. The scenarios for populations and GDP development were developed by taking existing state level projections and disaggregate these districts by using census data for multiple years to account for regional trends. The food demand, water demand and health care demand scenarios were directly derived from the population and economic scenarios. An extensive database was developed with decadal projections up to 2050 for all districts in the 11 Indian states of the Ganga basin.

Integrated analysis

To fully understand the combined effect of climate change and socio economic changes, and to identify regions where water scarcity will occur, integrated analysis was needed. To address changes in water availability, the regional climate models REMO and HADRM3 were run to provide high resolution climate change scenarios to be used to force LPJmL. Changes in glacier melt were addressed by comparing four models with observation data (Siderius et al).

The coupled hydrology and dynamic vegetation model LPJmL integrates a representation of the coupled terrestrial hydrological cycle and carbon cycle, which makes it a very suitable tool to study the relationship between water availability and crop production. Several components of the water and carbon cycles are validated and tested: e.g. river discharge, crop yields, irrigation requirements, and sowing dates. Specific validation results for the region are updated in the first part of the results. LPJmL explicitly accounts for human influences on the hydrological cycle, e.g. by including algorithms for irrigation extractions and supply and the operation of large reservoirs, which simulates well changes in stream flow and water supply from irrigation reservoirs to the irrigated fields.

Evaluation of adaptation options

LPJmL has been used to assess the combined impact of climate change (according to WP1) and socio economic change (land use change leading to increased water demand) on irrigation water demand and available supply from different sources, in the presence of absence of two adaptation measures: an overall improvement of the irrigation efficiency and a doubling of storage capacity of existing reservoirs.

The estimated current annual irrigation water demand in the Ganges is 375 km3. Only 44% of this water demand is available from surface water, the remaining is extracted from groundwater. Reservoirs play an important role in the water supply; approximately 30 km3 per year is supplied by reservoir water.

Without adaptation, LPJmL projects a small decrease in the irrigation water demand in 2050 , despite an increase of 11% in irrigated areas. This can be explained by the increasing CO2 concentrations, which causes plants to use water more efficiently. This partly compensates for potential negative effects of changes in other climate variables, particularly the overall warming and the regional shifts in precipitation. A doubling of the capacity of existing reservoirs (C) would only slightly increase irrigation water supply from surface water. This indicates that either the current reservoirs would not fill up at higher capacity, or that the regions with water shortage are not located near the existing reservoirs.

WP4 The development of a prioritization methodology: A negotiated integrated multi-criteria analysis & WP6 Participative development of multi-sector adaptation measures

HighNoon developed a new methodology for the prioritization of cross-sectoral adaptation measures. In Northern India, prioritization of adaptation options take place under uncertain conditions and involves equity and sustainability issues. Such complex circumstances require new forms of environmental decision making. The prioritization methodology was based on a participatory valuation approach, and enhances the incorporation of different preferences and subjective views of stakeholders in the valuation of adaptation measures.

One of the key objectives of the project was to identify and prioritise suitable adaptation measures at all relevant scales through multi stakeholder interactions that are site specific - and across sectors. The multiple levels of stakeholder interaction were:
-State level
-District level
-Community level

The methods developed guided the stakeholder consultations for the study objectives and supported consensus building amongst the diverse sets of stakeholders. Relying mostly on stakeholder inputs and perceptions, the work package activities were designed around stakeholder consultation across regions in the Ganges basin in India. Based on a set of criteria and supporting rationales, four sites were finalised and investigated as part of this work package.

The case study sites were:
-Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand
-Allahabad district in Uttar Pradesh
-The Kangsabati sub–basin in West Bengal covering Purulia, Bankura and Paschim Midnapore districts.

Through iterative consultations, stakeholder perceptions on hazards, impacts of hazards, vulnerability and suitable adaptation options were recorded and prioritized.

Based on their perceived vulnerabilities to climate change, the stakeholders at the state, district and community level identified and prioritized a rich set of sectoral, multi-sectoral and cross-sectoral adaptation measures. The arguments were largely drawn from stakeholders’ experiences on how these or related options had fared in the past and what factors lead to the success of certain programs and the ineffectiveness or failure of others. Some criteria were also based on the understanding of the nature of climate change problem, the uncertainty it presents and the need for anticipatory action or preparedness.

Case Study of Delhi

The impacts of climate change on the rainfall and glaciers could have serious implications on the city owing to its dependence on climate sensitive sources for water and energy. Delhi obtains its drinking water from glacier fed rivers of the Ganga basin. Substantial part of drinking water and electricity of the city is sourced from Tehri hydro project, a multipurpose dam built across the river Ganga. Below we present a list of key vulnerabilities to the city of Delhi owing to the impacts of climate change and current coping strategies based on stakeholder consultations. One to one consultations were carried out in Delhi, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Faridabad with diverse stakeholders such as hydroelectricity producers, regulators, consumers, drinking water suppliers and consumers, government planning departments amongst others. This was followed by a half a day stakeholder workshop in Delhi to discuss the issues in detail. These consultations aimed at drawing from the perspectives of decision makers, end users, implementers and experts to arrive at a list of coping strategies.

The rationale for selecting this as a case study site is as follows
-Delhi is one of the key benefactors of the Tehri hydro project. Substantial part of drinking water and electricity of the city is sourced from Tehri hydro project. Impacts of variations in precipitation and glacial retreat could have serious implications for the water availability in the dam which in turn could affect water supply for electricity generation, irrigation and drinking.
-Yamuna River from which, considerable amount of water is drawn for drinking is a major tributary of the Ganga and is glacier fed.
-Socio economic drivers like population growth, urbanization, changes in living standards, migration could multiply demands for drinking water and electricity.
-Delhi being the largest city in the Ganga basin could provide valuable insights into urban adaptation which is crucial, considering that there are many cities in the basin.

Case Study of Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarkhand

Of the 13 districts in the state of Uttarakhand, 7 are categorised as hilly. The hilly stretches are known to practice terrace farming with small landholdings and are largely rainfed. The plain areas within the state have large areas under agriculture which is mostly irrigated. The state also has a large number of hydropower generating units, with a considerable share of power generated being distributed to regions outside the state boundaries. The district of Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand falls in the plain region of the state with large tracts of irrigated agriculture and substantial share of population depending on farming as its primary livelihood source. The district is prone to flooding, usually after high rainfall events during the monsoon period.

The rationale for selecting this as a case study site is as follows
-Located in the upstream stretch of the Ganges basin
-Prone to exposure to extreme events like floods
-Area of cultivated and irrigated land highest in the state and
-Population largely dependent on agriculture as a source of livelihood

Case Study of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh

Located in the midstream of the Ganga Basin, the district of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh presents a unique case, with different regions in the district being prone to both flood and drought events. With agriculture and related activities dominating livelihoods, the anticipated impacts on water resources in this region are likely to affect the availability of water for drinking, irrigation and other uses. Also predicted are impacts due to deteriorating water quality with implications on both crop and human health.

The rationale for selecting this as a case study site is as follows
-Location of the district in the mid-stream of the basin, downstream of industrialised district of Kanpur
-Prone to exposure to droughts
-Prone to adverse impacts on water quality and its implications on agriculture and health
-High dependence of population on agriculture for livelihood
-Place of high cultural significance

Case Study of Bankura, Purulia, and Paschim Medinapur in West Bengal (Kangsabati sub-basin)

The districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Medinipur in West Bengal are part of the Kangsabati River Basin in the lower Ganges Basin. Agriculture is the prime contributor to the region's economy region with agricultural activities being largely dependent on the monsoons. Irrigation is also supported by the Kangsabati canal system. The region faces acute water scarcity, mostly attributed to uneven distribution of rainfall and lack of groundwater resources due to the less permeable soil and rock structure. Drought constitutes a major hazard here and intermittent gaps in precipitation, causing moisture stress, leads to a setback in production during the Kharif season, which is the main cropping season in these districts. Climate variability also significantly affects the water resource availability in the area.

The rationale for selecting this as a case study site is as follows
-Location of the districts downstream in the Ganges basin
-Agriculture based economies (rainfed and irrigated)
-Limited water resources and prone to droughts
-Poor status of human development indicators

In the subsequent phases, participative approaches were used to understand stakeholder perceptions regarding changes in climatic trends, sectoral impacts, vulnerabilities as well as to identify adaptation needs and define and design adaptation options/strategies.


Perception of Hazards

The results of discussions across all levels illustrated a commonality among the perceived hazards. Varying typically only in the extent of detail, the documented hazards range from increase in temperature, shorter and more severe winters, decrease in winter rainfall, delays in the onset of the monsoons, more erratic rainfall distribution and increased and more frequent incidences of extreme events like floods and droughts - Floods in the case of USN and parts of Allahabad and droughts in the case of parts of Allahabad and Paschim Medinipur. In addition to this, the community discussions at West Medinipur also revealed the occurrence of hail in the winter season. While stakeholders at the state and at the district level recognized these changes over a span of 10-15 years, stakeholders at the community level stakeholders professed these changes to observable over the past 5-10 years.

Perception of Impacts of the hazards

The perceived impacts inevitably vary according to the incident hazards. While it is observed that extreme events spell direct losses to life and livelihood, including reduced production from agriculture and livestock resources, the gradually escalating changes or disturbances in the biophysical parameters indirectly lead to further such losses.

Perception of stakeholders on their vulnerability

In Udham Singh Nagar, at the community level despite the lack of surface water resources, lack of water availability was not perceived as vulnerability due to present availability of groundwater resources and adequate capacity of farmers so as to tap the resource. Loss of cultivable land and consequent loss of revenue and property due to floods were however primary concerns. However, at the district level the long term impacts of climate change and over-abstraction of groundwater presented vulnerability to future scarcity and higher demand of water. Landless laborers and the poor who have close proximity to the flood plains were identified as the most vulnerable groups due to high exposure to extreme conditions. At the state level, the hilly districts were thought to face higher vulnerabilities due to dependence on a fragile ecosystem base. The region was also perceived have lower adaptive capacity characterized by a challenging terrain, limiting accessibility to important resources like water. Furthermore, depletion of groundwater resources and future scarcity of water due to present over-exploitation and increase in population, and thereby, water demand were perceived as contributors to future vulnerability to climate change.

In the case of Allahabad where agricultural is mainly rainfed, lack of water resources for irrigation and subsequently dwindling returns from the agriculture sector were primary concerns at the community level. Such impacts lead to migration of farmers in order to supplement their income. At the state level, it was observed that such detrimental impacts on agriculture and returns from the sector would lead to disenchantment with agriculture as an occupation and thereby lead to a decrease in the agricultural workforce in the future. A significant decrease in the total food production, changes in the crops selected for cultivation in response to bio-physical stresses and reduced productivity of reservoir based hydro-power plants were also flagged as important concerns that would add to present and future vulnerability.

Identified adaptation options

In entirety, the adaptation options identified across the three levels explored sectoral, multi-sectoral as well as cross-sectoral approaches to adaptation. The identified adaptation options could be categorized as (i) Research and Development, (ii) Technology and Practices, (iii) Institutional, (iv) Infrastructural and (v) Capacity Building measures.

At the community level, the focus was more on capacity building, infrastructural options and technology and practices that would provide tangible outputs. The identified options, to a certain extent, were found to be more reactive than preventive or anticipatory in nature (IPCC, 2001). The adaptation options proposed by the communities linked back directly to the impacts experienced due to the hazards and focused on providing quick short term reprieve from the impacts. The adaptation options suggested were from building reservoirs for water harvesting and storage, crop diversification, access to and training for adoption of water efficient technologies, livelihood diversification to afforestation and agro-forestry. With the exception of proposed monitoring of sand mining of the river banks to prevent future floods which is a regulatory measure and an institutional option. It was also observed that the community level stakeholders seek more devolution of power at the gram panchayat level.

Prioritized adaptation options

The results of the prioritization exercise show that in USN, the community level stakeholders preferred infrastructural improvement and institutional improvement over options for better technology and practices. Monitoring of sand mining from river banks and construction of stone embankments were both selected as priority options as monitoring of sand mining would resolve the root of the problem and being a regulatory measure, would not add to the costs. In addition to this, stronger stone embankments held together by wire meshes were preferred as they are expected to substantially decrease the impacts of floods whereas the currently adopted measure of building embankments with sandbags was observed to be ineffective as the sandbags are punctured by the force of water and collapses during floods. Livelihood diversification was the third most preferred option due to the presence of good markets for products from allied sectors. Capacity building of farmers for more water efficient farming practices was the lowest priority for the community as they were not very conservation conscious. The option of limiting cultivation of summer rice did not find any preference among the stakeholders due to the direct losses in revenue that it would spell for them. At the district level, however, public awareness about the need and methods for water conservation was identified as a priority due to low consciousness about the long term pitfalls of over exploitation of water at present. The need for better forecasting systems was the third most preferred option as it was felt to have more value as a preventive measure for a range of other climate related to impacts. Limiting cultivation of summer rice was the fourth most preferred option in interest of long term benefits with respect to conservation of water and maintaining groundwater levels. Increasing the range of crops that should be covered under insurance schemes was the next most preferred option as reactive measure for relief from the current impacts of climate change. High cost options like strengthening of embankment were lower on the priority while options like agro-forestry and afforestation were less preferred in comparison as they had already been undertaken to some extent on public land but resulted in failures. Relocation of people from the flood plains was the least preferred and lest feasible option due to the huge associated costs.

In the case of Allahabad, the community level stakeholders preferred construction of water harvesting and storage structures like, ponds and wells driven by the need to ensure resource availability in continuing water scarce conditions. Field bunding was preferred next due to the ease of implementation requiring only investment from the government while having a larger coverage which would help in conserving water within farm areas. Capacity building for and access to better technologies like drip and sprinkler systems was next best preferred option as they would aid in conservation of water. Options like agroforestry and afforestation were the least preferred options as they were considered as competing with agriculture for water, which is a common resource for both. Agroforestry was also not preferred due to the failure of crops in the fields due to the shade of the trees. At the district level, the Afforestation or large scale plantations was the most preferred adaptation option due to its multiple rewards including holding the fertile soil together and ensuring the maintenance of groundwater levels. The next priority was the promotion of water efficient irrigation technologies like drip and sprinkler irrigation systems to move forward from the current flood-irrigation system of irrigation which leads to excessive depletion of the resource. Lining of canals was considered an expensive option and was thereby a low priority. Construction of soak pits around tube wells was the least preferred option due to the limited extent of it application and also because it was felt that excess water from tube wells ultimately contributed to recharge of groundwater.

WP5 Indicators

Under Work Package 5, an indicator framework was developed for basin and case study areas to characterize the current state and to evaluate impacts of proposed adaptation measures. The indicators that were incorporated were based on water quantity, climate change and socioeconomic aspects. The framework was implemented on the Web using a GIS server (see online).

Indicators have been formulated for the Ganga basin at Subbasin and district level as well as for the case study sites in upper, middle and lower Ganga basin. Several indicators were developed:

Waterbalance Indicators

Agricultural water stress as indicator
Agriculture faces water stress if the water requirements of crops are not met. To detect the severity and spatial occurrence of water stress in the basin, the relative evapotranspiration (ETrel) is selected as indicator. This indicator is part of the Aquastress framework and is expressed as the ratio of actual evapotranspiration (ETa) over potential evapotranspiration (ETp) (formula 5.1).

The indicator expresses the degree to which a certain land use type suffers from water shortage.

Evaluation of indicator analysis

To evaluate the indicator results, the values have to compare to target values or acceptable ranges. For relative evapotranspiration, it is generally recommended that this ratio does not drop below 0.70 throughout the year. An ‘operational range’ and an ‘acceptable range’ has been used for this indicator. If the indicator remains within the operational range, crop yield will deviate less than 10% from the target value. If the indicator moves out of the acceptable range yield reductions of over 20% occur. For ETrel, the operation range was set at 0.8-1 and the acceptable range at 0.7-1.

Additional Irrigation Requirement / Crop Water Deficit

This indicator helps us in finding the extra water required to supplement the crop water demand of crop in excess of water available from natural sources of water, such as rainfall, dew, floods and groundwater which seeps into the root zone. The amount and timing of irrigation depends on several climatic, soil and crop factors.

Blue Water Flow / Natural Water Resources

Blue Water Flow, or the Natural Water Resource, is traditionally quantified as the sum of the water yield and the deep aquifer recharge. Blue water refers to the water in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and aquifers. Irrigated agriculture typically uses blue water as a supplement to rainfall. Blue Water refers to the water that flows in groundwater and surface water (river, lakes). It represents the water that can be withdrawn for irrigation, drinking, industrial use or water that is available for in-situ water use like navigation.

Green Water Flow / Crop Water Requirement

The concept of green water flow was refer to the return flow of water to the atmosphere as evapotranspiration (ET) which includes a productive part as transpiration (T) and a non-productive part as direct evaporation (E) from the surfaces of soils, lakes, ponds, and from water intercepted by canopies.

Green Water Storage / Soil Moisture

Green water Storage has been generally used to refer to the water stored in the unsaturated soils. In irrigated agriculture, vegetation sometimes relies on green water storage in addition to blue water flow. Comparatively, green water storage and flow is a significant water resource, much larger (volume-wise) than blue water.

Green water storage was originally used as a synonym for soil moisture. More precisely, green water storage is the portion of rainfall which is held in the soil and is available for plants' consumption. The storage and movement of water in a soil is of great importance in scheduling irrigation efficiently and effectively. As the soil goes from wet to dry, the relationship of the water to the soil changes, as well as the type of movement and amount of storage.

Climate Indicators

The following climate indicators have been used:

Rainfall parameter
Consecutive dry days - Maximum number of consecutive days with RR less than 1mm (CDD unit Days)
-Consecutive wet days - Maximum number of consecutive days with RR greater or equal to 1mm, (CWD unit Days)
-Number of heavy precipitation days - Annual count of days when PRCP greater or equal to 10mm, (R10 unit Days)
-Number of very heavy precipitation days - Annual count of days when PRCP greater or equal to 20mm, (R20 unit Days)

Temperature parameter
-Cold spell duration indicator - Annual count of days with at least 6 consecutive days when TN less than 10th percentile, (CSDI unit Days)
-Diurnal temperature range - Monthly mean difference between TX and TN, (DTR unit Deg C)
-Warm nights - Percentage of days when TN greater than 90th percentile, (TN90p unit Days)
-Warm days - Percentage of days when TX greater than 90th percentile, (TX90p unit Days)
-Warm spell duration indicator - Annual count of days with at least 6 consecutive days when TX greater than 90th percentile, (WSDI unit Days)

Socio Economic Indicators

Following are the indicators that are derived using the socioeconomic factors

-Cropped Area (Ha) - Area under each major crop like Maize, Mustard, Rice, Wheat and Sugarcane in Hectares for each districts.
-Crop Production (t) - Crop Production under each major crop like Maize, Mustard, Rice, Wheat and Sugarcane in metric tons for each district.
-Crop Yield (t/Ha) - Crop Yield under each major crop like Maize, Mustard, Rice, Wheat and Sugarcane in metric tons per hectares for each district.
-Irrigated Area (Source wise) (Ha) - Irrigated area under each source like Canal, Tank, Tubewells, and Other source in Hectares for each districts.
-Irrigated Area (Crop wise) (Ha) - Irrigated area under each major crop like Maize, Mustard, Rice, Wheat and Sugarcane in Hectares for each districts.

-Total Population - Male
-Total Population Female
-Literacy Rate- Male
-Literacy Rate - Female

The GIS based Indicator Framework

A GIS based framework was built where all indicators were incorporated for general dissemination. These indicators are consolidated at subbasin and district scale for the convenience of the users. Subbasin information can be used by farmer or people working at micro level, whereas district is included for administrative purpose. The framework can be accessed via:

The framework is a combination of two parts:
-An indication of the level of water stress at sub-basin level
-An indication of the level of water stress at district level

The following are the main features of the GIS Indicators framework.
-Easy to access
-Easy querying
-No installation required
-Linkage to Spatial location (on Map)
-Comparison between scenario

Care has been taken to make it user friendly and at the same time serve the user community with functionalities to retrieve the relevant information.

Adaptive Measures

To see the change / impact in the adaptive scenario, several adaptive measures suggested in the first stakeholder workshop were modelled. Various small interventions and diversions were implemented within the watershed. Repercussion of these intervention and diversion could be visualised with the GIS indicator framework.

Potential Impact:

HighNoon focused on the development of adaptation measures in Northern India and is a collaborative effort between European, Indian and Japanese partner institutes. The project worked on improved understanding of the biophysical and the social system, at present and in the future. HighNoon applied a trans disciplinary research approach to climate change adaptation. Knowledge on climate change and climate variability of stakeholders at different levels was integrated with scientific knowledge derived from improved regional climate modelling and socio-economic scenario development. The involvement of stakeholders at different scales, ranging from individual farm level to national government, makes the outcomes of the selected adaptation options of great value.

HighNoon has formulated a set of recommendations for policy makers (Moors, E. J. and HighNoon team, 2012 Adaptation to Climate Change in the Ganges Basin: A Policy and Science Brief, Northern India. Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands):

-The rate of melt and accumulation of the Himalayan glaciers is still not well understood. More research is needed on benchmark glaciers so as to better understand their dynamics, evolution, and response to climate change.
-Extension of the monitoring network of benchmark glaciers, will improve our capacity to project melt water changes into the future. Such a monitoring network should be taken to a level so as to represent the large diversity of Himalayan glaciers.
-Using the identification of critical glacier lakes, lake monitoring programs, installation of early warning systems and capacity building in populated places downstream must now be developed.
-To improve prediction of precipitation in climate projections more research is needed to understand the regional and global mechanisms driving the Indian Monsoon. Such understanding shall also be very useful in making daily and seasonal forecasts for precipitation that can be used for tackling floods and droughts alike.
-When limited in financial resources, invest either in regional climate models for spatial detail or in multiple general circulation models for spread in emission scenario outcomes.
-To support decision making on climate change adaptation, climate science information needs to be made available to stakeholders at all levels in an understandable format and at a scale and detail which is relevant to stakeholders.
-Robust climate adaptation decision making, needs to account for both the uncertainty in future climate projections and for natural climate variability, which may lead to short-term variation in climate change trends.
-At present, adaptation measures in India are planned at national and state level, not taking into account the physical boundaries of water systems. To prevent adverse effects in other parts of the river basin, planning should be tailor-made at the river basin scale.
-At present, adaptation measures in India are planned at national and state level, not taking into account the physical boundaries of water systems. To prevent adverse effects in other parts of the river basin, planning should be tailor-made at the river basin scale.
-To increase resilience, adaptation plans should be made locally specific. Enabling the exchange of case studies and good practices will facilitate the development of robust solutions
-Large scale water storage for agriculture is not a viable option mid- and downstream of the Ganges basin, partly due to topography. Focus should rather be on more local distributed storage. That shall also help in inducing natural recharge to replenish the ever reducing groundwater.
-Recent scientific developments have led to an increasing skill in long-term forecasting on the seasonal, annual and decadal scales. These forecasts may provide important information to decision makers. Further development of these forecasting skills should be encouraged
-To enable quantification of cost and benefit analysis of adaptation options, more empirical research is needed integrating participatory qualitative methods and quantitative model based outcomes.
-A platform for the exchange of information and good practices regarding climate adaptation is recommended.
-Making bio-physical and socio economic data available to the research community will greatly decrease the uncertainty in research outcomes and consequently increase the value for society of these research results.
-Results from the HighNoon project could be transferred to other countries trying to achieve the Millennium Development and Sustainability Goals by Green Economic Growth

Towards implementation of adaptation options: SmartWater measures

HighNoon has not only performed research but worked toward the implementation of solutions.

Implementation of adaptation is mainly about enhancing available technology as opposed to developing new technology. Most of these technologies, like new crop varieties or rainwater harvesting structures, are already part of existing rural or urban development schemes. With relatively simple measures their effectiveness, and adaptive capacity, can be improved. HighNoon has developed several 'Smartwater measures'. An example is 'flexible use of water harvesting reservoir'. One of the preferred adaptation options from the HighNoon stakeholder consultations is the storage of rainfall runoff in water harvesting structures, an ancient Indian method. However, traditional systems do not always offer the flexibility and water delivery security needed now and in the future. In selected agricultural fields the adaptive capacity of farmers in small reservoir supported irrigation schemes was improved. The traditional outlet of the reservoir was replaced by a SmartWater outlet including a flexible gate, measurement weir and rainfall gauge. With this outlet the outflow could be regulated, allocated and monitored, allowing for a more flexible use of water combining rainfall, reservoir stored water and groundwater. This resulted in an increased cropping area of almost 60% and a reduced vulnerability to year to year rainfall variability. Implementation of this SmartWater measure will require: cooperation with government or local authorities, (depending on the size of the reservoirs), upgrading of control structures and training of Water User Associations.

Future research challenges

To improve imbedding of research results in society and to further progress science, HighNoon organised a number of events bringing together stakeholders, policymakers and scientists:
-Open science seminar 'Future of water resources in India under a changing climate' New Delhi, May 13 - 14, 2009;
-Roundtable discussion 'Bi- and multilateral Indo-European cooperation on climate research and innovation', New Delhi, November 28, 2011;
-Special event 'Adapting to the changing climate and water resource availability in the Ganges basin'. 12th Delhi Sustainability Development Summit, New Delhi, February 2-4, 2012;
-Trans-Himalayan workshop 'Glaciers, snow melt and runoff in the Himalayas' Kathmandu, Nepal, February 6-7, 2012;
-HighNoon Open science and policy seminar 'Climate change and adaptation', New Delhi, April 4, 2012.

Gaps - Glaciers, snow and runoff
-More continuous monitoring on representative benchmark glaciers.
-Add benchmark catchments taking glacier, snow and runoff divides into account.
-Focus on seasonality and inter-annual variability.

Gaps - Extremes of precipitation and temperature
-Collect measurements at more extreme (e.g. higher altitudes) locations under more extreme conditions.
-Develop regional climate projections from more extreme emission scenarios.
-Move from analysing averages to extremes (and variability in extremes).
-Increase detail in terms of spatial and temporal resolution when it comes to impacts especially in urban areas.

Gaps - Adaptation
-Increase common knowledge by enabling comparison, evaluation and monitoring of approaches, e.g. adjust for India.
-Development of regional climate services.
-Integration of land use scenarios and adaptation in planning e.g. food security and urban planning.
-Integrate policies to prevent opposite effects


HighNoon ensured a maximum dissemination of the project results by a broad audience (scientists, policymakers, planners). The project successfully enabled a successful cooperation between the scientific consortium and public and private Indian and European organisations.

Conferences and meetings

The dissemination of scientific results of HighNoon was stimulated through the participation in several international conferences and other scientific meetings. It organized a HighNoon-sponsored side event at Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) in Delhi in February 2012. This summit was a high level policy conference that provided knowledge and stimulated debate on various aspects of sustainable development. It is the only forum on global sustainability issues, with a focus on problems relating to the developing world. In addition, a HighNoon, DFID, SDC sponsored workshop was held in Kathmandu (6-7 February 2012) at the premises of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and dedicated to Climate, glaciers, snow and runoff in the Himalayas.

HighNoon Open Science Policy Seminar (Delhi, 4 April 2012)

The open science policy seminar was organised in April 2012 as concluding event of the HighNoon project. More than 60 participants from science, policy (Indian and state governments), governmental and non-governmental organization participated in active discussions. It was a daylong event and final outputs from all work packages were shared with stakeholders through multiple presentations and through the conduct of interactive sessions with policy makers to understand how the gap between the scientific findings and policy making can be bridged. The Ministry of Science and Technology appreciated the study focus and expressed interest in learning about the findings and the gaps that emerge in research which then need to be considered for further support. The seminar provided an opportunity for stakeholders to interact with the project team.

Highnoon Special Issue

The HighNoon methodology and results are further disseminated to the scientific community in the form of a peer-reviewed special edition of the major scientific journal 'Science of the Total Environment', where ca. 12 HighNoon papers are in the process of being published.


The HighNoon data sets provide a valuable resource to the entire community in the future and are public accessible after granting access. The Climate Scenarios work package has provided the most detailed set of regional climate information available for the Indian subcontinent including the Himalayas. These data are able to inform impact studies and inform adaptation policy. Although not formally HighNoon project partners the database has been made available to scientist working in the region. These collaborators include researchers from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.


To respond to the need to train young scientist in the Asian countries, HighNoon organised a HighNoon Spring School in Delhi, April 2012. Thirty highly qualified students from 4 Asian countries (24 from India, 3 from Bangladesh, 2 from Nepal and 1 from Thailand) participated. The school consisted of lectures, discussion and practise modelling work. The overall feedback of the student was very positive with many expressing an interest in learning more about climate change and water resource management.


The project web site was updated regularly and links with existing web sites and electronic networks were improved to allow rapid exchange of information of ideas to researchers and end-users. The website was also be used to publish information such as factsheets and newsletters that provide up-to-date information on the scientific results emerging from the project and how they can be used/adapted to other mountain regions of the world. The website was also be used to disseminate recommendations for adaptation strategies and to help in policy choices.

HighNoon Policy Brief

The policy brief contained key outputs from all the work packages of the study. The policy brief was disseminated during the HighNoon Open Science Policy Seminar. Further, it was also sent to all relevant stakeholders outside the seminar.

Model applications

The LPJmL model is currently being combined with the bio-economic model WaterWise. It is expected that this coupled model can be used to evaluate a much broader set of adaptation options. There is a lot of interest shown in this coupled framework (also in other basins), and it is expected that results of LPJmL-WaterWise will be much more policy relevant than the pilot study conducted in this workpackage so far.

GIS indicators

The GIS Indicators framework that was developed allows future users to systematically assess natural resources in a temporal and spatial manner. This can help to understand the extent to which water resources are managed to meet the social, economic and environmental long term needs spatially. The GIS based framework helps users to interactively explore the system in terms of various features of the Ganga system along with the SWAT outputs at various levels of details of their choice. This system serves as a dissemination tool for creating consensus by presenting various options of development to the stakeholders and policy makers in an understandable manner.

Dissemination material

Local pamphlets: HighNoon has produced several pamphlets in English, Bangla and Hindi. In order to introduce the HighNoon study to stakeholders a short pamphlet describing the study objectives, member institutions, methods and expected outcomes was shared with stakeholders. The pamphlets were faxed to various departments at state and district level, and was handed personal at block levels.

Factsheets: Factsheets for socio economic projections have been prepared. The factsheets present outputs from socio economic projections, both from downscaled global projections and district level projections. Further, the factsheet presented projections for water demand, food demand and the subsequent implications for the health.

Video documentary from the case study sites: A short video documentary Ganga Dairies based on stakeholder consultations was produced. The documentary was an attempt to capture diverse issues in the basins and give voice to the concerns of people under represented. The video documentary was screened during the HighNoon Open Science Policy Seminar as well as presented online in the HighNoon project website.

High Noon presentation at India Water Forum held at New Delhi to share some of the key findings of the study: Interim findings of modeling studies were shared with stakeholders from the water sector and through an interactive session in the water forum an attempt was made to sensitize key stakeholders on some of the challenges of the assessing a large basin such as the Ganges.

Lessons from stakeholder interactions

Over the past decade and more, climate change and its impacts have received considerable attention so as to highlight it as an issue of much interest and concern among the masses. This was very well illustrated throughout the stakeholder consultations undertaken as part of this work package, owing to the response and interest our activities generated. At each stage of stakeholder consultations, a background document was sent to stakeholders explaining the rationale for the consultation and specific activities during consultations. The High Noon project provided a platform to not only create the kind of information that stakeholders need but also the opportunity to disseminate the information generated and gain stakeholder feedbacks.

Contact details:

Dr E.J. Moors
ALTERRA, Wageningen University and Research Centre
P.O. Box 47
6700 AA Wageningen
Phone: 0031 317 486 431

HIGHNOON project website address:

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