Presentation on theme: "Martin Geiger, Jörg Hartmann, WWF Germany & International Redefining Water Security Responding to a Misleading Paradigm."— Presentation transcript:
Martin Geiger, Jörg Hartmann, WWF Germany & International Redefining Water Security Responding to a Misleading Paradigm
Hydrological variability is negatively correlated with economic development (tropical regions are poorer). Even though debates about the relative importance of institutional, cultural, and geographic factors for development are inconclusive, it is accepted that hydrology has some significance. “Water shocks” can disrupt and discourage economic activities. Climate change will increase inter- and intra-annual hydrological variability. Poor countries lack the most common response to variability – storage. “The global distribution of water infrastructure is inversely related to the global distribution of water insecurity risks.” UNDP Human Development Report, 2006 Shared Assumptions
In order to grow, countries need to „harness their hydrology“ by building multi-purpose storage dams. All rich countries have done this and achieved water security, and poor countries, with their often even more difficult hydrology, need to do this even more urgently in order to escape the poverty trap. Jumping to Conclusions
The causal relationship between storage and development is less clear-cut than claimed. The role of storage is oversold. It is possible to over-invest in storage. Exposure to water risks is not a given, and storage can be counter-productive by increasing exposure. The cost of infrastructure storage is high, inflexible and growing. Storage is but one option to address water risks. The feasibility of storage investments is often doubtful. The relative merits of investments in different water sub-sectors are less clear-cut than claimed. Holes in the Argument
There are rich countries with little water (Saudi-Arabia) and low storage capacity (California), and poor countries with plenty of water (Congo) and plenty of storage capacity (Zimbabwe). Industrial countries that invested heavily in water infrastructure either did this because of particular local opportunities (hydropower in Norway) or because they could afford it. Dams were often a result, not a cause of development.
Building storage may be a necessary, but never a sufficient precondition for access to water services. For example, without irrigation and drainage infrastructure and the required institutional framework, storage will not contribute to food security. Access to water for many human needs (drinking & industrial) requires delivery but in most places, no major storage infrastructure. The storage problem is most relevant where an economy is dependent on irrigated agriculture and hydropower, and „water shocks“ to these sectors are transmitted throughout the economy.
Many rich countries have over-invested in water infrastructure: The US has a backlog for maintaining its public infrastructure estimated at $ 2.2 trillion, three times the size of the current stimulus package (American Society of Civil Engineers 2009). Removal is being discussed for many obsolete dams. Developing countries can avoid these costs which, in hindsight, turned out to be for projects of low usefulness.
Infrastructure creates a false sense of security and leads to overexposure: The 2.5 years of storage on the Colorado River, or the fact that the Murray-Darling basin has 30% of Australia‘s storage capacity for 6% of its runoff, have created completely water-dependent societies - but even those levels of storage cannot mitigate the risk of long-term variability. Dams and levees, like insurance schemes create moral hazard risks, inducing people and industries to settle and invest in flood plains.
Storage comes at a high price: Precious water is lost to evaporation (between 10 - 20% of total runoff on rivers like the Zambezi, Nile and Colorado.) 500,000 km 2 of valley bottom land, often the most fertile agricultural land, has been lost to reservoirs – equivalent to the total land area of France, or the wheat-growing areas of India and China combined. Storage disrupts the natural flow regime of the river and all downstream ecosystem services associated with flows. Storage redistributes water and water-associated benefits – often from poorer to richer people. In a water-scarce basin, more water security for one group (upstream irrigators) can mean less water security for another, more vulnerable group (fishermen in the delta).
There are many options to adress water insecurity: Providing alternative means of storage – from wetlands, lakes, aquifers, forest soils, farm dams, drinking water reservoirs, to individual solutions such as roof tanks, bathtubs & buckets… Reducing demand for storage – raising water efficiency; managing water demand; water allocation and rights reforms; changing cropping patterns… Reducing exposure to non-availability of water – early warning systems; off-farm income sources; crop, flood or weather insurance; zoning regulations; trade in physical or virtual water
Cost-benefit analyses of infrastructure projects are often done badly: They systematically overestimate demand, and underestimate costs (incl. corruption costs) and implementation time, due to - optimism bias - deceptive „strategic misrepresentation“ (= lying by project promoters) - pork-barrel politics - bureaucratic self-interest They often ignore distributional effects, and in particular the impacts on vulnerable groups and future generations. They typically assume optimal operations & maintenance, when in fact the institutional capacity to operate & maintain complex infrastructure, with all the trade-offs between different purposes, may be lacking.
There is no systematic empirical evidence about the cost-effectiveness of different interventions in different water sub-sectors at different stages of development. Infrastructure is a broad term. A rough estimate is that for an average of $ 100, one additional person can be provided with access to drinking water. Due to the high costs of dams, several million people can be provided with drinking water for the same cost as building one large dam.
A suggested WWF definition: „Water security is the maintenance of the necessary hydrological conditions to support healthy ecosystems in the context of climate change and evolving global social and energy needs. In a country with high levels of water security, water issues will have little adverse impact on those in poverty. Maintaining the health and productivity of ecosystems will be an important part of achieving water security for poor and vulnerable groups.” When water infrastructure is developed, we need clarity about the „why“, the „how“ (safeguards) and the „for whom“ (equity). Definitions of Water Security
Storage projects should be authorized, financed and built only if they don‘t destroy critical natural assets, and a representative sample of free-flowing rivers and their ecosystem services is maintained, credible information is publicly available to demonstrate that they are the best option, and that the best possible locations, designs and operating rules have been chosen, all parts of society, including downstream users of ecosystem services, are better of with than without the project. Sustainability Principles
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