International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

The Value of a River Basin Approach in Climate Adaptation

Climate change is having major impacts on water resources, affecting the quantity, quality and timing of water flows in many places. These changes are likely to increase as climate change advances. Taking a holistic river basin approach to climate adaptation can bring many advantages when building resilience in natural and human systems and addressing conflicts that will increasingly arise as climate change advances. This paper reviews the advantages and challenges of such an approach, drawing on results of a vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning for the Gandaki river basin in Nepal using WWF’s ‘Flowing Forward’ methodology for assessing vulnerability of different human and environmental systems. The paper reviews how the river basin approach frames key adaptation issues and challenges, such as maintaining, provisioning, and regulating ecosystem services; reconciling upstream and downstream needs for water and ecosystem services by various sectors; and maintaining ecological connectivity in order to promote adaptation of freshwater and terrestrial systems and species. Results can be applied in adaptation planning at various levels, including for local communities. The paper also reviews interactions between climate change and development, including changes in land use, hydropower development and water extraction, and examines the value of environmental flow analysis to understand likely combined impacts. Finally, it outlines the importance of multi-sectoral and multi-scale adaptation approaches in river basins, including the need for appropriate institutional structures and policy frameworks. (Published in 2016)

27 Mar 2020

1 MB


The Value of a River Basin Approach in Climate Adaptation.pdf