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Community Water Systems: Climate vulnerabilities and resilience opportunities

Type of project
Basic research
International Joint Initiative for Research in Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (IIRCC)
01.03.2024 -> 01.03.2027

About the project

Water-related risks will jeopardize the water security of up to 2.4 billion people by 2050, with impacts on access to water and health (Risk #7), lifeline infrastructure (Risk #3), food security, livelihoods, and cultural heritage. We will be supporting community partners in Kenya, South Sudan, Norway, and Canada to: a) map their water systemsʼ climate vulnerabilities; b) implement and evaluate interventions that augment their water systemsʼ resilience; and c) create a globally-applicable toolkit to inform policymakers at the global, national, regional, and local levels to advance interventions with vulnerable groups in other locations. Our first two aims will support in-community activities to advance water security beyond the duration of this project. Research objectives include understanding: (i) the systems that ensure water security, (ii) the climate vulnerabilities in those systems, and (iii.) the opportunities for creating and maintaining climate-resilient water systems.

Three-quarters of natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water-related. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggests with high confidence that climate change has affected water security, thereby hindering efforts to meet SDGs. Today, more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress. By 2050, that figure may reach 3.2 billion and could displace 150-200 million people. Changing climates affect water availability for daily needs including sanitation and hygiene as well as local and changing conditions for agricultural practices, including pastures, peatland, marshes, and soils. Changing climates increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather like floods, droughts and fires disrupting provision of water for peoplesʼ and animalsʼ wellbeing.

One key barrier to effective global water and environmental security policies is the lack of frontline engagement with vulnerable groups at local and regional levels. Our research team and partners seek to build a unified framework and global water security toolkit as well as localized climate action plans at five project sites in British Colombia in Canada, Varanger in Northern Norway, Juba in South Sudan, and Turkana in Kenya; localities where climate change is already affecting landscapes and vulnerable populations. Based on local and indigenous caretaking practices we will co-produce a toolkit that informs communities to i) map their water systems, ii) understand future vulnerabilities in these water systems, and iii) develop tailored climate action plans with tested interventions to support a climateresilient water future.

This project tackles cultural and scientific complexity in creating a unified multi-disciplinary approach that is rigorous and relevant to both local contexts and to global policy. It seeks more effective global policy solutions across the Global South and Global North while addressing our partnersʼ urgent water and environmental security risks.