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Adaptation in the Water Resources Sector




                    (A Canadian Perspective)

"Water managers are beginning to consider adapting to climate change…[however], the extent of adaptation by many water managers is uncertain.”
Several studies indicate that managers are generally complacent toward the impacts of climate change.  In a survey of American water resource stakeholder organizations, no groups indicated the intention to conduct future work regarding climate change, and all ranked the level of attention given to climate change as low. This may be because managers generally believe that the tools currently used to deal with risk and uncertainty will be sufficient for dealing with any increased variability induced by climate change.
                                  BOX 3:  Commonly recommended adaptation options
The most frequently recommended adaptation options for the water resources sector include:
  • Water conservation measures;
  • Improved planning and preparedness for droughts and severe floods;
  • Improved water quality protection from cultural, industrial and human wastes;
  • Enhanced monitoring efforts; and
  • Improved procedures for equitable allocation of water.
 Each of these recommendations would be considered a "no-regrets” option that would benefit Canadians irrespective of climate change impacts.

Another important factor could be the lack of standards for incorporating climate change into design decisions. The reactive, rather than proactive, nature of water management may also play a role.
There are, however, exceptions to these general trends. For example, water managers in the Grand River basin of southwestern Ontario have begun to develop contingency plans for future droughts, and a series of workshops has been held to evaluate decision analysis methods for dealing with shifting Lake Erie water levels under climate change.  These initiatives contradict the often-cited opinion that climate change will have minimal influence on water management operations until there is better information regarding the timing and nature of the projected changes. Researchers point out that the scientific uncertainty associated with climate change is not very different than the other sources of uncertainty that water managers are trained to consider, such as population growth and economic activity.  Therefore, uncertainty should not preclude the inclusion of climate change as part of an integrated risk management strategy.
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