International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Ghana Water Research Institute – Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); The African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Sciences (ACCESS) – University of Nairobi; International Water Management Institute (IWMI); Overseas Development Institute (ODI); University of Manchester, U.K.; Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)
Ecosystem services need to be linked more directly and clearly into water infrastructure development, for climate change adaptation and integration into water, food and energy security.
Water security is vital for growth, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation – issues of highest priority on the policy agenda for many developing countries. Built water infrastructure is an asset to store and regulate water to support social and economic development and facilitate adaptation to climate change. Yet competing policy narratives argue that built water infrastructure can degrade ecosystem services that the poor rely on most.
Climate change will dramatically change the way that infrastructure is planned, financed and used in the future. Less water and more erratic rainfall present challenges for large water storage in terms of technical performance, the return on investment, and the sharing of benefits.
WISE-UP aims to support new policies and strategies for water infrastructure that will better and more coherently address and integrate policy goals for growth, poverty reduction and climate adaptation. The project will demonstrate natural infrastructure as a ‘nature-based solution’ for climate change adaptation and sustainable development and develop knowledge on how to use combinations of built water infrastructure (eg. dams, levees, irrigation channels) together with natural infrastructure (eg. wetlands, floodplains, watersheds) for poverty reduction, water-energy-food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience.
Working with nature can optimise the performance and financial benefits of built infrastructure. Built infrastructure should be selected and designed in balance with nature as infrastructure performance depends not just on management practice and operational rules but also on ecosystem services. For example, dams benefit from forests that stabilize soils and hold back erosion upstream. Lakes and wetlands regulate flows and store water, thereby reducing volumes of water that must be stored in built reservoirs and hence cutting the cost of built water storage investments. Well-functioning natural infrastructure is necessary for built infrastructure to perform its functions better, to realise projected benefits and to secure returns on investment.
WISE-UP aims to develop knowledge on how to use mixed portfolios of built water infrastructure and natural infrastructure for poverty reduction, water-energy-food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience. WISE-UP aims to demonstrate the advantages of using dialogue with decision-makers and stakeholders to identify water system tradeoffs and balance investment decisions in order to meet multiple societal goals.
Using the Tana and Volta as demonstration basins, the implementing partnership of WISE-UP brings together a multidisciplinary team of expertise. Its structure is highly interlinked – progress and outputs rely on collaboration between partners.
Under the ecosystem infrastructure investment analysis, IWMI
is exploring the eco-hydrological functions of built and natural infrastructure in the context of climate adaptation through a range of techniques, including modelling, ecosystem service mapping and the development of “benefit functions” linked to hydrological functions. BC3’s economic valuation work will assign monetary value to different system impacts and natural infrastructure investments. This information will facilitate analysis of the economic costs and benefits associated with infrastructure, management and climate shifts. The University of Manchester’s river basin impact modelling and trade-off analysis integrates IWMI and BC3’s outputs to generate the set of best available (i.e. most efficient and robust) combined built and natural infrastructure investment options for an uncertain future. Each combination of built and natural infrastructure provides a different balance of benefits which is then represented graphically for stakeholders to discuss.
Future land use changes, population growth, irrigation expansion, planned infrastructure, and urban-rural demographic shifts to 2050 will be taken into account in this work. The political economy research on decision logics and political drivers, complements the ecosystem infrastructure investment analysis by bringing a deeper understanding of why and how basin stakeholders make the investments decisions they do. This analysis allows the project to target the correct institutions and stakeholders (including brokers of information and networks of influence) that are key to more effective application of evidence and influence of change. The basin leads, WRI-CSIR and ACCESS, work alongside the other partners to help “ground truth” the research. They develop in-country skills and capacities for sharing results, aiming to strengthen understanding and ownership of data and tools under WISE-UP.
The Action Learning process, led by IUCN, engages basin stakeholders directly from the start putting them in the driver’s seat to actively guide project research and direction. The process is designed to operate at the interface between the development of new scientific evidence and the identification of the political dynamics and economic drivers shaping decision-making and policy. This is critical to better understand how to make information and innovative tools practical, useful and trusted – how to take science into policy circles and decision-making processes. It helps us shape the future stages of research and field work, and allows WISE-UP to continually evaluate the relevance of its work.
WISE-UP will provide solutions/options for integrating built and natural water infrastructure for adaptation in the Tana and Volta river basins. Through improving existing knowledge and tools for planning and decision-making in infrastructure investments in these basins, the project will deliver not only a decision-support tool but options for adaptation strategies.
The project is halfway through implementation and so lessons are at the early stage at present. So far the key lessons learned include:
Natural infrastructure, adaptation strategies
COUNTRIES OR REGIONS INVOLVED
Ghana and Burkina Faso (combined covering 85% of the Volta River Basin), Kenya (Tana River Basin)
Key national level decision-makers (i.e. government ministries of water, energy, irrigation, financing, etc.), river basin authorities, (e.g. Volta Basin Authority (VBA), Tana-Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA)), universities, NGOs, civil society representatives, private sector (e.g. KENGEN energy supplier), water resources managers and engineers.
The Knowledge Platform is designed to promote and showcase an emerging set of approaches to water resources management that address climate change and other uncertainties — increasing the use of "bottom-up approaches" through building capacity towards implementation, informing relevant parties, engaging in discussion, and creating new networks. This is an ongoing project of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) funded by the World Bank Group.