Sonali Senaratna Sellamuttu/IWMI.

Variability, Risks and Competing Uses

Communities can benefit from floods and droughts

Whether caused by man-made infrastructure, such as dams, or by climate change, the increasingly irregular availability of water threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Each year floods and droughts cause hundreds of billions of dollars of crop damage and loss of livestock and human lives. Yet floods also benefit fisheries and floodplain agriculture, and droughts kill pests. Finding ways to equip communities to better manage extreme variability, while also taking advantage of it, could help increase agricultural productivity.

Cracked soil in the Gulf of Khombat.
Hamish John Appleby/IWMI

The Managing Resource Variability and Competing Use research theme is focused on developing solutions that can reduce the negative effects of floods and droughts on poor men and women. By developing tools and showcasing sustainable investment opportunities the research theme helps decision makers find solutions for balancing the need to produce more food and energy with that of protecting the environment.

Water quality: the real water crisis?

The phrase ‘water crisis’ often evokes images of cracked soil and shriveled crops or towns and fields completely submerged. And while some regions of the world are frequently subjected to the devastation caused by droughts and floods, water crises come in other forms with a far more global reach. A study by CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) partner, IFPRI, highlights the extent of a different water crisis: deteriorating water quality. The study estimates that by 2050, increased use of nitrogen and phosphorous will result in up to 1 in 3 people being exposed to a high risk of water pollution. [read more]

Weighing the trade-offs of large water investments

The county capital of Wajir in northeast Kenya lacks clean drinking water and has no suitable source of water nearby. That's why the Kenyan government plans to tap into an important groundwater body, the Merti aquifer, located 120 kilometers away, to secure a steady supply of water to the city. Potential benefits include improved public health and higher productivity as well as economic growth, which is expected to accelerate development in the region.

Goats at a water point near Wajir, Kenya
Goats at a water point near Wajir, Kenya.

After discussions with community representatives, WLE scientists modeled how the Merti water-transfer project was likely to affect communities in an effort to develop a more equitable project design. They uncovered significant trade-offs, with likely impacts on various communities. [read more]

Ensuring access to water with ecosystem services schemes in Peru

In the Cañete River basin in Peru, urban residents, rafting companies, industries and farmers all depend on clean and plentiful water resources. One model to ensure the quality of these natural resources for future generations is for downstream beneficiaries to reward upstream communities in exchange for protecting and maintaining the watershed. In 2014 a Peruvian congressional committee approved national rewards for ecosystems services legislation developed by the Ministry of Environment, with WLE partner, CIAT, Conservation International and GIZ acting as advisers. In June 2014 the Peruvian congress passed the law, which promotes and regulates rewards for ecosystem services schemes throughout the country. [read more]