“Peter Glieck, an American scientist, outlined the current challenges facing the world in the climate change era as follows: ‘We live in a 21st-century climate with a 20th-century infrastructure and 19th-century laws and policies.’ Climate change is here as the world is witnessing weather changes and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves. As a result, the water cycle is severely impacted because it is the medium where climate change manifests itself and starts disrupting other sectors.
Although the global efforts are working to tackle climate change and mitigate its impacts, they are insufficient. Therefore, there is a high demand to accelerate global efforts to forge ahead in disaster reduction and preparedness by designing resilient infrastructure and developing adaptive policies and measures. This fact brings out vulnerability and risk as two concepts which the water sector needs to identify and assess in order to mitigate climate change impacts, design resilient infrastructure, and guarantee delivering water services. Although, these concepts may be used differently across the water industry.
In brief, risk is the estimation to what extent the system will respond to the event and alter its functions. It depends mainly on the system vulnerability. This vulnerability is primarily linked to the system characteristics which determines the system capacity to not only be severely affected by a natural disaster but also recover. Many factors are intertwined with these two concepts including economic, environmental, social, and political factors, which indicates that vulnerability and risk are context-specific based on the system characteristics.
Diagnosing each case represents a challenge to the water sector around the world mainly when there are a lack of data and poor stakeholders’ engagement. Data knowledge has an imperative role in planning for early warning systems, preparedness, and relief plans. However, this requires technical capacity, human expertise and financial resources which emphasize the huge gap between countries and the need for more collaboration in this domain. We always need to remember that Global South is the least advanced, highly vulnerable to climate change and the
most impacted with climate change. Although, its countries are the least contributors in emitting greenhouse gases.
How can the water sector be more effective and more prepared? The answer is still in progress, however, adaptation and resilience are our current survival tools to cope with climate change challenges and impacts. Here comes the importance of the collective knowledge of all water experts as a way to form an integrated thinking that can estimate vulnerability and risk simultaneously then propose innovative solutions. Open discussions and experiences’ exchanges are key in developing solutions and moving on to a resilient future. Good practices are found worldwide, however, they are in small scales and in continuous development. Replicating them is a bewildering option but they can also be key for the learning experience.
To sum it up, the water sector is facing major challenges as climate change is becoming a harsh reality, thus all the water industry needs to be onboard and think out of the box.”