CEEweb’s recommendations on climate change – Water

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By: CEEweb for Biodiversity, a network of 64 non-governmental organizations in the Central and Eastern European region. Our mission is the conservation of biodiversity through the promotion of sustainable development

This is part three of a 6 article series on policy recommendations for climate change. If you haven’t already, read the previous articles:

  1. The necessity of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change at national level
  2. The ecosystem based approach in agriculture

Ecosystem-based approach in the area of water management

One of the most important concerns in the face of climate change is that of water, as it is severely impacted and brings significant pressures for adaptation. Water is already effected in many different ways: rainfall patterns are being changed, run-off generation mechanisms modified, and extreme hydrological events (water scarcity and heavy floods) are becoming more frequent and severe with large regional variation, causing increased damages. At the same time, our water use practices are also being changed. In spite of advanced technologies, human pressure on freshwater resources is increasing, leading to overexploitation of renewable water availability in several regions, which is aggravated with additional pressures such as pollution, urbanization, deforestation, land use change and development in flood prone areas (e.g. intensive agriculture, settlements or major new users of water). These pressures result in biodiversity loss and degradation of water based ecosystems, with increased spread of invasive alien species.

Water is a sector where system-level, integrated solutions with ecosystem-approach are inevitable. Regional scenario development and risk analysis should underpin a carefully identified set of measures, where climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are in synergy with each other and with other environmental and socio-economic objectives. Precaution should be the leading principle, and the so-called no regret solutions with low cost and multiple benefits should be promoted.

Flood protection and drought management should be handled together in an integrated water resources management plan, with multiple purposes. Instead of the reactive approach of quickly draining excess water, preventive approach should be adopted. Development and intensive use should be avoided or limited in flood prone areas by appropriate spatial planning. These areas should be dedicated to retain excess water for periods of droughts and scarcity, thus maximising the positive aspects of floods and effectively use flood water. Natural water retention areas (water bodies, floodplains and water related ecosystems) have huge water retention capacities, therefore should be prioritized against structural solutions (e.g. constructed reservoir space). Besides water retention, natural areas provide a number of further ecosystem services, since they provide clean water and food, treat pollutants, control floods and erosion, ensure habitats, increase biodiversity and sequester carbon. These services underpin human well-being, thus it is very important to restore damaged water based ecosystems and prevent their further damages. Besides floodplains, water resources management should be integrated also in the wider landscape, promoting natural solutions such as reforestation, ecosystem restoration and soil protection. Besides climate change mitigation and adaptation, these solutions bring multiple benefits, are cost-effective and harmonize water management with land use, agriculture and nature conservation.

(Source: Conclusions of the Future of European Waters Conference)

Example: restoration of the river Camenca, Moldova

Camenca is left tributary of the Prut river, and its lover part partially forms protected area “Padurea Domneasca”. The river was streamlined in the seventies, resulting in substantial changes in the surrounding wetlands: decrease in their water level (by 2,5-3 m) as well as in their primary production (by 20-30%) and degradation of natural habitats.

Restoration started in 2000, with the following aims: nature conservation (establishing a new biosphere reserve), water purification (nutrient control) and adaptation to climate change (introducing integrated floodplain management). Within 3-5 years approximately 50% of the floodplain, 60 hectares of wetland was restored.

Integrated River Management Plan (see as Plan) was prepared for the period of 2010-2015, largely supported by local authorities, NGOs and public institutions. The following activities were started: fund-raising for implementing the Plan, capacity building and training for local authorities and institutions, harmonization of local development plans and strategies (infrastructure, economic development, social, etc.) with the provisions of the Plan, development of educational program, and designation of the area for Biosphere Reserve.

Source:

  • National Strategy for Sustainable Development in Moldova, UNDP, Chisinau, 2001
  • Parliament Decision on adoption of National concept of water management policy, Official Monitor of the Republic of Moldova, No. 191-195 from 5 09.2003
  • Action Plan Moldova – EU, Chisinau, 2005

In the next article: the ecosystem-based approach in forestry.

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