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Water Sector

waterWater is predicted to be the main area through which early climate change impacts will be experienced. Changes to water quality and availability will affect numerous sectors and jeopardize economic development and poverty reduction efforts. As the fundamental drivers of the hydrological cycle are affected by increasing climate variability and climate change, they will have large impacts on the availability and demand of water resources.

These changes in water availability and demand will exacerbate development issues in almost all other sectors such as health, food production, sustainable energy, and biodiversity. Increased water related risks associated with the changes in frequency of extreme events, such as flash floods, storm surges, and land slides, will put further stresses on these sectors.

Adaptation to increasing climate variability and climate change in the water sector needs to be guided by principles of: adaptations within a broader development context; improving governance; building resilience; addressing the economic and financial aspects; and improving and sharing knowledge and information.

Climate Data for the Water Sector

Climate data and information underpin the planning and management of surface freshwater supplies and mitigation of damage from high and low water flows. Long records of catchment rainfall and river flows provide the basis of planning for sustainable freshwater harvesting, but it is the hydrological extremes of flood and drought that pose significant problems for water resource managers.

These hydrologic data are essential for calculating quantities such as frequency of heavy rainfall the Probable Maximum Precipitation for given periods and flood events, flood forecasting and water resources assessment. As hydrologists can no longer rely on  ‘climate stationarity’ (that the climate will be the same in the future, as it always has been), then a new set of theories and tools must be developed to assist water sector decision-making for incorporating very uncertain and qualitative climate change scenario information.

This data, collected on weekly, seasonal and annual timescales and at national, regional and local levels, are now more essential than ever to provide the foundation upon which operational water management strategies can be developed. Early warning of extreme events such as floods and droughts is crucial for developing and implementing various flood preparedness and response strategies. The WMO Hydrology and Water Resources Program and WMO Commission for Hydrology (CHy) is facilitating the transfer of technology in hydrology and water resources from developed countries to developing countries to help limit the impact of climate variability and climate change. 

[Technical information] on global water can be found on the World Hydrological Cycle Observation System (WHYCOS) website.

[Technical information] WMO Hydrological Operational Multipurpose System (HOMS), sharing Hydrological technology

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