Water is the main channel through which the impact of climate change will be felt and remains the key to developing successful adaptation strategies. We are already observing changes in freshwater systems around the world with water-related risks coming in the form of some regions having too little, too much, too unreliable or poor quality.
While developing countries face all of these risks alongside the absence of good governance mechanisms, the biggest challenges remain securing funding for investments in grey infrastructure to:
- Convey water from areas of excess to areas of scarcity.
- Recharge ground water systems in areas of scarcity.
- Efficiently manage the water in both areas of excess and scarcity.
- Diversity sources of water supply.
Through research and cooperation, Eco Relief has identified ecosystem-based adaptation measures that can provide a cost-effective means to address uncertainty by avoiding or delaying lock-in to capital-intensive infrastructure. The measures, referred to as Green Infrastructure solutions, involve a deliberate and conscious effort to utilise the provision of ecosystem services to provide water management benefits for multiple users – agriculture, production, sanitation & hygiene, healthcare.
The major green infrastructure solutions Eco Relief is currently implementing is categorised under its Community Watershed Development Programme (COWDEP). This will embody:
1. Water harvesting.
This refers to the collection and management of flood water or rainwater runoff to increase water availability for use in household, agriculture, industry and ecosystem sustenance. The aim of water harvesting is to collect runoff or groundwater from areas of surplus or where it is not used, store it and make it available, where and when there is water shortage. Water harvesting makes more water available for multiple users by buffering and bridging drought spells and dry seasons through storage.
2. Development and restoration of riparian buffers.
Riparian buffers are vegetated, often forested, areas adjacent to streams, rivers, lakes and other waterways that serve as the catchment areas for water supply in most communities. These buffers recharge groundwater and protect aquatic environments from the impacts of surrounding land use – sediments and pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus. And during floods, riparian vegetation slows down runoff by absorbing excess water, reduces peak flow and helps to mitigate erosion and related damage.