Conference Overview

International Conference on Water Management & Climate Change

Water resources management has emerged as one of the most challenging issues for the policy makers as well as practitioners in the world. Water resources determine the agricultural productivity. Agricultural productivity in turns affects food security and living conditions of a large number of farmers dependent upon farming and general public. With growing multi-sectoral demands and declining supplies, water scarcity is growing by the every passing day. There is serious water crisis ahead. This problem is aggravated by the impact of climate change on water resources.

Climate change is threatening the world with irreversible complications. It affects every sector in the world and it is more serious with water resources. Global water resources are being affected adversely by the climate change crisis. In the context of the current debate over implications of climate change for water resources, several global efforts are on to mitigate the impacts. It is necessary that the developing countries, like India, are taking considerable actions in terms of policies, programmes and projects and capacity building. There is a need to share and learn from each other’s experience mutually to combat challenges of climate change.

International Conference on Water Management and Climate Change attempts to construct relation between implications of climate change and water management and their effect on farm productivity and rural livelihood. Conference attempts to analyze these interconnections and effect of each of them at different places and stages. Conference is expected to have brain storming deliberations among global experts in water management and climate change. It aims to generate novel ideas and suggestions for sustainable, nature and farmer friendly solutions. Global scientists, academicians, administrators, water resource managers, farmers, civil society actors, irrigation experts, environmentalists share their expertise and experiences to arrive at short term and long term policy suggestions.

Some of us who are directly and indirectly challenged by the implications of climate change for the growing water crisis shall be meeting in Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI), Dharwad, under the Water Resources Department of Government of Karnataka, India during 24-25 January, 2023. 

Issues of the conference will be deliberated under the following sub-themes: 

  1. Challenges of Water Management
    • Supply Side Challenges
    • Demand Side Challenges
  2. Implication of climate change
    • Nature and extent of climate change
    • Impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture
  3. Way forward
    • Amelioration of implication of climate change- adaptation and mitigation
    • Policy mechanisms for sustainable water management and agriculture

I. Challenges of Water Management

i) Supply Side Challenges :
Global water supply remains more or less finite while the multi sectoral demand for water increases over the years. Planet has about 326 million cubic miles of water which amounts to about 71 per cent of the earth’s surface. And, 97 per cent (320 million cubic miles) of this is found in the oceans (too salty for drinking, growing crops, and most industrial uses except cooling). Only about 3 per cent is fresh water. Out of this only 0.5 per cent is available and the remaining 2.5 per cent is unavailable (locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil; highly polluted; or lies too far under the earth’s surface to be extracted at an affordable cost). To be realistic the supply is not constant but decreasing due to factors like water pollution. The common perception that world has enough water is false!

ii) Demand Side Challenges :

Global water demand has increased by 600 per cent over the past 100 years (Wada, al,2018). And this demand will grow significantly over the next two decades in all the three components namely industry, domestic and agriculture. Global water demand for all these uses which is presently about 4,600 km3 per year will increase by 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2050, up to 5,500 to 6,000 km3 per year (Burek, P. et al. 2016). Globally, water use for agriculture presently accounts for 70 per cent of the total most of which is used for irrigation.

Water demand for agriculture will increase by 60 per cent by 2025 (Alexandratos, N. & Bruinsma, J., 2012). Global use of water for industry which presently accounts for 20 per cent of the total water demand will increase everywhere around the world by 2050. Domestic global water use currently accounts for 10 per cent of the total and it is expected to increase significantly over the period 2010–2050 in all the world regions except for Western Europe. In the 2010s, groundwater use globally amounted to 800 km3 per year. India, the United States, China, Iran, and Pakistan accounted for 67 per cent of the global extractions. Water withdrawals for irrigation are the primary driver of groundwater depletion worldwide. The drivers for increasing demand include growing population, industrialization and commercialization, new technologies of extraction and management and new developmental patterns.

iii) Water Scarcity and Conflicts
Water crisis arises on account of quantitative and qualitative limitations. Quantitative scarcity arises out of expanding needs while the qualitative deterioration is due to pollution of water for productive purposes. Mismatch between demand and supply creates global and regional conflicts for sharing the limited water supply. The micro level water scarcities aggregate towards macro level scarcities and create conflicts among countries and the regions within countries. Several studies around the world show that climatic change is likely to impact significantly upon freshwater resources availability. While several countries / regions of the world have crossed threshold of scarcity, some are in transition. Unbridled competition to achieve and maintain high economic growth demands heavy exploitation of natural resources including water. There is a tremendous pressure on water resources across the globe. Signs of growing conflicts for water are seen all around – America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia. Water conflicts aggravate into political conflicts and transboundry demographic movements creating geopolitical complexities for which Middle East is the evidence. For quite some time there has been a talk of global tensions leading towards Third World War for which neither wealth nor oil but WATER could be the cause. 

II. Implications of Climate Change

i) Nature and extent of climate change :
In simplest terms, according to United Nations Climate Action, climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But, since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. And emissions continue to rise.

Global community is struggling to combat and halt the climate change. United Nations Organization (UNO) has taken lead in several areas and collective actions are initiated. As the climate change is a very complex phenomenon, initiation alone is not enough but action at the ground level ! UNFCCC and IPCC efforts are very sensible and in the right directions, Paris Agreement (COP21) is another historic event in these efforts. It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris in December 2015. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degree Celsius, compared to preindustrial levels. The Paris Agreement made commitment that the world’s richer countries should provide $100bn (£87bn) annually by 2020 to help developing nations to deal with the effects of climate change, and build greener economies. But, until 2019 only $79.6 bn has been raised. A recent UN report said the $100bn goal would not be reached until 2023 – even though a new and more ambitious target is supposed to be set for 2025. As preparations for this Conference are underway, the COP27 begins on November 6, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, amid concerns that commitments are not enough to hold global temperature increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The COP27 is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. More than 200 countries will attend the summit to discuss further measures to cut emissions and prepare for climate change and it could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.

Now is the time to review working of these global systems based on the policy and field level experiences.

ii) Impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture
Water and climate change are inextricably linked. Extreme weather events are making water scarcer, more unpredictable, more polluted or all three. These impacts throughout the water cycle threaten sustainable development, biodiversity, and people’s access to water and sanitation. Flooding and rising sea levels can contaminate land and water resources with saltwater or faecal matter and cause damage to water and sanitation infrastructure, such as water points, wells, toilets and wastewater treatment facilities. Glaciers, ice caps and snow fields are rapidly disappearing. Melt water feeds many of the great river systems. Volatility in the cryosphere can affect the regulation of freshwater resources for vast numbers of people in lowland areas. Droughts and wildfires are destabilizing communities and triggering civil unrest and migration in many areas. Destruction of vegetation and tree cover exacerbates soil erosion and reduces groundwater recharge, increasing water scarcity and food insecurity.

Adapting to the adverse effects of climate change is a major area of action under the UNFCCC. As the climate changes, societies will have to learn to adapt. It is crucial for the welfare of global agriculture, how quickly farmers will adapt to the changing climate and what policies or technologies will enable rapid adaptation. The Paris agreement, adopted through Decision addresses crucial areas necessary to combat climate change. Adaptation solutions take many shapes and forms, depending on the unique context of a community, business, organization, country or region. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all-solution’—adaptation can range from building flood defenses, setting up early warning systems for cyclones and switching to drought-resistant crops, to redesigning communication systems, business operations and government policies. Many nations and communities are already taking steps to build resilient societies and economies, but far greater action and ambition will be needed to cost effectively manage the risks, both now and in the future.

At this historic Conference it would be our responsibility to bring water management, climate adaptation and community action with agrarian perspectives to the centre stage of global climate change debate.

III : Way forward

Climate policymakers must put water at the heart of action plans. Sustainable water management helps society adapt to climate change by building resilience, protecting health and saving lives. It also mitigates climate change itself by protecting ecosystems and  educing carbon emissions from water and sanitation transportation and treatment. Governments should cooperate across national borders to balance the water needs of communities, industry, agriculture and ecosystems. Innovative financing for water resource
management will be needed to help attract investment, create jobs, and support governments in fulfilling their water and climate goals. Sustainable, affordable and scalable water solutions include: improving carbon storage; protecting natural buffers; harvesting rainwater; reusing wastewater; harnessing groundwater; adopting climate-smart agriculture. And a crucial component would be peoples’ (farmers’) participation in water management, which needs to be encouraged.

Policy mechanism for sustainable water management
Here is the challenge to the climate change, water and agriculture experts, intellectuals, global peacemakers and political visionaries to intervene and save the world from catastrophe. We should try to stop and resolve the conflicts. We need to sit together, talk to each other, understand each other and work together in a spirit of global partnership. As the Paris Agreement places great emphasis on climate-related capacity-building for developing countries there is a need for developed countries to enhance support for capacity-building actions. We must respect the nature and its bounties and limitations and restructure our economic activities and developmental priorities. There is a scope for adopting several innovative water management technologies to overcome the challenges posed by the climate change. These call for appropriate policies, institutional mechanism, adequate and timely funds, technology and trained manpower and peoples participation.

“The world must step up and protect people and communities from the immediate and ever-growing risks of climate emergency. We have no time to lose”….Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations, 3, November 2022.

Growing demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment, and has contributed to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peat lands. Water-intensive agriculture for food production, particularly meat, and for growing crops used as biofuels, can further exacerbate water scarcity. 

The current challenge is to establish firm linkages between climate change and its implications for water management and the present Conference will focus on those issues.

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