As worldwide populations grow and become more affluent, the demand for food and water rises. At the same time, climate variability and change are making it difficult to provide water where and when it is needed. Floods destroy communities in one part of the world, while in another people trek miles every day just to get enough water to survive. Water scarcity is a pervasive problem and is one of the most difficult challenges we face in the 21st century.
Columbia Water Center
The Columbia Water Center is conducting a $6 million project, sponsored by the PepsiCo Foundation, to effect change in water use and supply in some of the most challenging settings in the world. The project includes efforts ranging from the design of irrigation and cropping systems for poor villages in Mali to creating sophisticated climate-based forecasting systems to inform water allocation decisions across diverse-use sectors in Brazil.
In Northern Ethiopia, the project is furthering the improvement of water use and supply in Koraro, the site of an ongoing Millennium Village project, and adjacent areas. In collaboration with the University of New Hampshire’s Water Systems Analysis Group and the International Peace Research Institute, the Water Center is exploring the impact of drought on the incidence of civil war in Africa in order to understand how water scarcity contributes to political violence.
International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society is working with the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) in the Philippines to identify key decision points at which climate information could be valuable in managing water resources. Together with NWRB and other stakeholders, IRI plans to develop and test a reservoir model and other decision tools that integrate season-ahead climate information into water allocation for use in different sectors, times and irrigation zones. IRI is also collaborating with the Philippine meteorological service (PAGASA) to help them build their capacity to respond to needs of decision makers in areas like water dispute mediation and preparations for climate variability.
Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Earth Institute, Columbia University
The Center for International Earth Science Information Network is leading the Earth Institute’s work in a major collaboration with several partners, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to reduce poverty and natural disaster vulnerability in Haiti through ecosystem restoration and sustainable resource management. The pilot program, part of an anticipated 20-year project for the entire country of Haiti, began with baseline assessments in river basins of the southern peninsula, aiming to provide a platform for designing and coordinating integrated watershed management programs. These strategic plans enable restoration of a sustainable flow of ecosystem services, improved erosion management and agricultural production, and access to clean water. These interventions could also reduce risk associated with hurricanes and flooding. In the wake of the Haiti earthquake, fieldwork will be integrated with post-disaster reconstruction and long-term development of the country’s urban and rural areas.
Columbia Water Center
In the Delaware Basin, the Columbia Water Center is working to incorporate climate and weather information into water resources management. The project aims to address the lack of flexible operating rules to equitably meet the competing demands on the basin and to address the exclusion of climate variability and change considerations from the existing operating rules.
In the Everglades region, the Water Center is working with the National Park Service to develop scenarios that describe long-term local climate variations. The hope is to reverse the significant habitat degradation and species loss that was caused by the construction of extensive water drainage and control systems in southern Florida, while still providing a sustainable water supply to the South Florida Water Management District.