Abstract

Climate change adaptation in water management is a water governance issue. While neither climate change nor water respects national borders, adaptation in water management should be treated as a transboundary water governance issue. However, transboundary water management is, in essence, more complex than national water management because the water management regimes usually differ more between countries than within countries. This paper provides 63 lessons learned from almost a decade of cooperation on transboundary climate adaptation in water management under the UNECE Water Convention and puts these into the context of the OECD principles on water governance. It highlights that good water governance entails a variety of activities that are intertwined and cannot be considered stand-alone elements. The paper also shows that this wide variety of actions is needed to develop a climate change adaptation strategy in water management. Each of the lessons learned can be considered concrete actions connected to one or more of the OECD principles, where a range of actions may be needed to fulfil one principle. The paper concludes that developing climate change adaptation measures needs to improve in parallel the water governance system at transboundary scale.

Introduction

Globally, water-related disasters already account for 90% of all natural disasters. Climate change has a profound impact on the water cycle. With increasing greenhouse gas emissions, the number of related disasters increase significantly with a higher frequency of intense storms, locally more intense rainfall and higher river discharge extremes. Also, climate change is projected to significantly reduce available renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions, amplifying competition for water among agriculture, ecosystems, settlements, industry and energy production, and deteriorating already scarce water resources. Forty per cent of the world's population currently lives in water-stressed river basins and water demand will rise by 55% by 2050 (OECD, 2012). In most basins today, the timing of precipitation and runoff events is also shifting, as are the frequency and intensity of major climate ‘engines’ such as the South Asian monsoon and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), as well as regional tropical cyclone patterns. Meeting the increasing demand for freshwater and protecting ecosystems at the same time will thus become one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century, presenting tradeoffs between stakeholders and between human and ecological needs that are expected to become increasingly difficult. Climate change is, to a large extent, water change and where the water crisis (Vorosmarty et al., 2010) is a governance crisis (Cosgrove & Rijsberman, 2000; UN-WWAP, 2006) climate change adaptation is also a governance issue. While physical assets and infrastructure are often the focus of climate adaptation efforts and expertise, the framework for avoiding, reducing and resolving conflicts and tradeoffs across territorial boundaries serves as a ‘soft’ infrastructure. Additionally, infrastructure is generally built for a long period of time with little flexibility. Thus, while there is a likelihood of (hydrological) changes during its lifespan, the infrastructure nails down hydrological (and therewith governance) assumptions and narrows the decision space (Matthews et al., 2011; Garcia et al., 2015; Tortajada, 2016). Governance, climate change adaptation, water resources management, infrastructure and disaster risk reduction should therefore be seen as interacting with each other in working towards adaptation and should be better integrated to address new and emerging impacts (Milly et al., 2008; WWAP, 2012; OECD, 2013; IPCC, 2014; Wieriks & Vlaanderen, 2015; Barreteau et al., 2016; Mekonnen & Hoekstra, 2016; Tortajada, 2016).

In many water basins around the world, the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and on society are becoming more and more visible, so that adaptation to build resilience against the changes has become a major issue. As 60% of global freshwater resources contained in 276 river and lake basins are shared between countries, 40% of the world population is located in river and lake basins shared by at least two countries, and about two billion people worldwide depend on groundwater, which includes approximately 300 transboundary aquifer systems, transboundary cooperation in adaptation is necessary. Moreover, a study by Bakker (2006) showed that floods in transboundary basins unduly contribute to casualties and damage. Transboundary cooperation should, therefore, focus on the coordination of adaptation measures at the basin level but also to prevent or reduce possible negative impacts of unilateral adaptation measures on other riparian countries. Cooperation can enable joint development of more cost-effective solutions, which offer benefits to all or several riparian parties (UN-Water, 2008; Koeppel, 2015; UNECE/INBO, 2015). Such cooperation can be done in many different forms, for instance, setting up joint early warning systems on floods, droughts and/or accidental pollutions, joint flood risk management planning and implementation, agreements on dam operation or financial contributions to upstream flood mitigation measures in the upstream country by the downstream country (see e.g., UNECE, 2009b; Otterman et al., 2012). By looking at economic, social and environmental benefits within and even beyond water management, benefits of transboundary cooperation may be identified and communicated (UNECE, 2015).

To support improved transboundary cooperation, this paper summarizes the lessons learned (Table 1) from almost a decade of cooperation on transboundary climate adaptation in water management in the Task Force on Water and Climate (UNECE/INBO, 2015) under the UNECE Water Convention (UNECE, 1992) and puts these into the context of the OECD principles on water governance (Tables 2 and 3) (OECD, 2015). One of the main activities of the UNECE Water Convention is supporting parties in their efforts to adapt water management to climate change (Koeppel, 2008). The Task Force on Water and Climate under the Water Convention, that was established in 2006, was entrusted to develop activities on water and climate adaptation. Activities entailed regular meetings and workshops to exchange knowledge and experiences in developing an adaptation strategy and implementing adaptation measures, and the coordination of several pilot projects.

Table 1.

Overview of lessons learned (UNECE/INBO, 2015).

Principles of basin adaptation 
 Lesson 1 Develop an adaptation strategy at the transboundary level 
 Lesson 2 Ensure political support for the basin-wide strategy 
 Lesson 3 Demonstrate the benefits of basin-wide cooperation in adaptation 
 Lesson 4 Integrate climate change adaptation within river basin management planning 
 Lesson 5 Position river basin management planning and Environmental Impact Assessment/Strategic Environmental Assessment as legal instruments/regulations/policy to implement climate change adaptation 
 Lesson 6 Reconcile uncertainty and confidence in recommendations and strategy 
 Lesson 7 Adopt a flexible approach to climate change adaptation in the transboundary basin 
 Lesson 8 Use ecosystem-based adaptation as a cost-effective alternative to ‘grey’ infrastructure 
 Lesson 9 Ensure synergies and linkages between adaptation actions at different government levels and across different sectors 
 Lesson 10 Involve all sectors and ministries in defining adaptation priorities 
 Lesson 11 Ensure that adaptation policies consider climate change as one of many pressures on water resources 
Legal and institutional frameworks 
 Lesson 12 Implement existing transboundary agreements in a flexible way 
 Lesson 13 Design new transboundary agreements to be flexible 
 Lesson 14 Include flexibility mechanisms in water allocation schemes 
 Lesson 15 Climate-proof regulations for water quality 
 Lesson 16 Give a mandate to RBO to address climate change 
 Lesson 17 Create a specific working group responsible for climate change adaptation as part of a joint commission's institutional framework 
 Lesson 18 Use existing non-RBO institutions and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation to the extent possible 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Dialogue and participation 
 Lesson 19 Facilitate trust building and collaborative learning 
 Lesson 20 Apply transparency and openness throughout the process 
 Lesson 21 Involve decision-makers in the adaptation process from the beginning to ensure that the process is integrated with policymaking processes 
 Lesson 22 Ensure stakeholder participation in all steps of the development and implementation of adaptation strategies and measures 
 Lesson 23 Ensure stakeholder participation and ownership of adaptation measures at different decision-making levels and spheres of influence 
 Lesson 24 Build transboundary teams among scientists, administrative authorities, non-governmental groups and technical experts to enable joint actions, such as assessments 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Capacity development 
 Lesson 25 Identify the needs for capacity development 
 Lesson 26 Develop a capacity-development plan 
 Lesson 27 Ensure that investments in information and data-sharing systems target not only technological solutions, but also capacity development and the ability to integrate multidisciplinary information 
 Lesson 28 Facilitate the exchange of insights and experience between stakeholders on adaptation activities to learn and build capacities 
 Lesson 29 Ensure the exchange of knowledge between technical specialists and decision-makers 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Communications 
 Lesson 30 Clearly define the strategic objectives of communication in advance 
 Lesson 31 Launch an initial communication plan at the beginning of the project, and update, adjust and revise it progressively 
 Lesson 32 Raise awareness of the importance of acting at a basin-wide scale 
 Lesson 33 Tailor messages to your audience, based on its characteristics and needs 
 Lesson 34 Handle internal communication between project partners with the same care as external outreach 
 Lesson 35 Implement and model communication about adaptation for key audiences on the most appropriate scale, which may be the local or sub-basin scale rather than the whole-basin level 
 Lesson 36 Select appropriate instruments to communicate about climate change impacts on water resources and adaptation options 
 Lesson 37 Use targeted approaches to raise awareness on the need for adaptation 
Data collection, exchange and storage 
 Lesson 38 Identify information needs and processes for assessing, gathering, compiling and exchanging information 
 Lesson 39 Ensure collection and sharing of the appropriate and necessary data, information and models for the entire basin and across the water cycle 
 Lesson 40 Evaluate thematic, spatial and temporal areas of data coverage and gaps 
 Lesson 41 Build a common repository of the information to be communicated 
Assessing vulnerabilities, opportunities and synergies 
 Lesson 42 Develop a common understanding of the concepts of vulnerability, opportunity, impacts and uncertainty related to climate change 
 Lesson 43 Consider the whole basin and all steps of the water cycle in the vulnerability assessment 
 Lesson 44 Assess vulnerability at both the basin and sub-basin levels 
 Lesson 45 Link the vulnerability assessment with capacity-building for decision-makers and stakeholders 
 Lesson 46 Harmonize and integrate the use of climate, environmental and socioeconomic models and scenarios 
 Lesson 47 Involve stakeholders in vulnerability assessments 
Adaptation measures in the transboundary context 
 Lesson 48 Develop a mix of structural and non-structural measures 
 Lesson 49 Develop a common monitoring system 
 Lesson 50 Ensure that monitoring and observation systems are capable of adjusting to the possible changes in information needs 
 Lesson 51 Develop a transboundary early warning system 
Prioritization of measures and their location 
 Lesson 52 Assess the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of different adaptation options on a basin scale 
 Lesson 53 When selecting adaptation measures consider their impact on mitigation 
 Lesson 54 Establish a transparent, participatory and explicit prioritization process 
 Lesson 55 Locate adaptation measures at the most beneficial location in a transboundary basin and consider sharing the costs and benefits 
 Lesson 56 Consider using economic analysis to build the case for action and to inform the selection of adaptation options 
Financing the implementation of adaptation measures 
 Lesson 57 Ensure adequate financing for adaptation through a mix of public and private funds 
 Lesson 58 Mainstream adaptation costs into the overall costs of water management 
 Lesson 59 Use economic instruments for water management to reduce baseline stress and provide flexibility to changing conditions 
Build a basin-wide evaluation theory 
 Lesson 60 Develop a theory of change 
 Lesson 61 Use a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools and be cautious in attributing impacts to climate shifts 
Regularly update assessments 
 Lesson 62 Evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures 
 Lesson 63 Establish mechanisms for regularly reviewing the assessments in order to ensure flexible adaptation 
Principles of basin adaptation 
 Lesson 1 Develop an adaptation strategy at the transboundary level 
 Lesson 2 Ensure political support for the basin-wide strategy 
 Lesson 3 Demonstrate the benefits of basin-wide cooperation in adaptation 
 Lesson 4 Integrate climate change adaptation within river basin management planning 
 Lesson 5 Position river basin management planning and Environmental Impact Assessment/Strategic Environmental Assessment as legal instruments/regulations/policy to implement climate change adaptation 
 Lesson 6 Reconcile uncertainty and confidence in recommendations and strategy 
 Lesson 7 Adopt a flexible approach to climate change adaptation in the transboundary basin 
 Lesson 8 Use ecosystem-based adaptation as a cost-effective alternative to ‘grey’ infrastructure 
 Lesson 9 Ensure synergies and linkages between adaptation actions at different government levels and across different sectors 
 Lesson 10 Involve all sectors and ministries in defining adaptation priorities 
 Lesson 11 Ensure that adaptation policies consider climate change as one of many pressures on water resources 
Legal and institutional frameworks 
 Lesson 12 Implement existing transboundary agreements in a flexible way 
 Lesson 13 Design new transboundary agreements to be flexible 
 Lesson 14 Include flexibility mechanisms in water allocation schemes 
 Lesson 15 Climate-proof regulations for water quality 
 Lesson 16 Give a mandate to RBO to address climate change 
 Lesson 17 Create a specific working group responsible for climate change adaptation as part of a joint commission's institutional framework 
 Lesson 18 Use existing non-RBO institutions and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation to the extent possible 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Dialogue and participation 
 Lesson 19 Facilitate trust building and collaborative learning 
 Lesson 20 Apply transparency and openness throughout the process 
 Lesson 21 Involve decision-makers in the adaptation process from the beginning to ensure that the process is integrated with policymaking processes 
 Lesson 22 Ensure stakeholder participation in all steps of the development and implementation of adaptation strategies and measures 
 Lesson 23 Ensure stakeholder participation and ownership of adaptation measures at different decision-making levels and spheres of influence 
 Lesson 24 Build transboundary teams among scientists, administrative authorities, non-governmental groups and technical experts to enable joint actions, such as assessments 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Capacity development 
 Lesson 25 Identify the needs for capacity development 
 Lesson 26 Develop a capacity-development plan 
 Lesson 27 Ensure that investments in information and data-sharing systems target not only technological solutions, but also capacity development and the ability to integrate multidisciplinary information 
 Lesson 28 Facilitate the exchange of insights and experience between stakeholders on adaptation activities to learn and build capacities 
 Lesson 29 Ensure the exchange of knowledge between technical specialists and decision-makers 
Organizing the process of adaptation strategy development – Communications 
 Lesson 30 Clearly define the strategic objectives of communication in advance 
 Lesson 31 Launch an initial communication plan at the beginning of the project, and update, adjust and revise it progressively 
 Lesson 32 Raise awareness of the importance of acting at a basin-wide scale 
 Lesson 33 Tailor messages to your audience, based on its characteristics and needs 
 Lesson 34 Handle internal communication between project partners with the same care as external outreach 
 Lesson 35 Implement and model communication about adaptation for key audiences on the most appropriate scale, which may be the local or sub-basin scale rather than the whole-basin level 
 Lesson 36 Select appropriate instruments to communicate about climate change impacts on water resources and adaptation options 
 Lesson 37 Use targeted approaches to raise awareness on the need for adaptation 
Data collection, exchange and storage 
 Lesson 38 Identify information needs and processes for assessing, gathering, compiling and exchanging information 
 Lesson 39 Ensure collection and sharing of the appropriate and necessary data, information and models for the entire basin and across the water cycle 
 Lesson 40 Evaluate thematic, spatial and temporal areas of data coverage and gaps 
 Lesson 41 Build a common repository of the information to be communicated 
Assessing vulnerabilities, opportunities and synergies 
 Lesson 42 Develop a common understanding of the concepts of vulnerability, opportunity, impacts and uncertainty related to climate change 
 Lesson 43 Consider the whole basin and all steps of the water cycle in the vulnerability assessment 
 Lesson 44 Assess vulnerability at both the basin and sub-basin levels 
 Lesson 45 Link the vulnerability assessment with capacity-building for decision-makers and stakeholders 
 Lesson 46 Harmonize and integrate the use of climate, environmental and socioeconomic models and scenarios 
 Lesson 47 Involve stakeholders in vulnerability assessments 
Adaptation measures in the transboundary context 
 Lesson 48 Develop a mix of structural and non-structural measures 
 Lesson 49 Develop a common monitoring system 
 Lesson 50 Ensure that monitoring and observation systems are capable of adjusting to the possible changes in information needs 
 Lesson 51 Develop a transboundary early warning system 
Prioritization of measures and their location 
 Lesson 52 Assess the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of different adaptation options on a basin scale 
 Lesson 53 When selecting adaptation measures consider their impact on mitigation 
 Lesson 54 Establish a transparent, participatory and explicit prioritization process 
 Lesson 55 Locate adaptation measures at the most beneficial location in a transboundary basin and consider sharing the costs and benefits 
 Lesson 56 Consider using economic analysis to build the case for action and to inform the selection of adaptation options 
Financing the implementation of adaptation measures 
 Lesson 57 Ensure adequate financing for adaptation through a mix of public and private funds 
 Lesson 58 Mainstream adaptation costs into the overall costs of water management 
 Lesson 59 Use economic instruments for water management to reduce baseline stress and provide flexibility to changing conditions 
Build a basin-wide evaluation theory 
 Lesson 60 Develop a theory of change 
 Lesson 61 Use a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools and be cautious in attributing impacts to climate shifts 
Regularly update assessments 
 Lesson 62 Evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures 
 Lesson 63 Establish mechanisms for regularly reviewing the assessments in order to ensure flexible adaptation 
Table 2.

OECD principles on water governance (OECD, 2015).

Enhancing the effectiveness of water governance 
 Principle 1 Clearly allocate and distinguish roles and responsibilities for water policymaking, policy implementation, operational management and regulation, and foster coordination across these responsible authorities 
 Principle 2 Manage water at the appropriate scale(s) within integrated basin governance systems to reflect local conditions, and foster co-ordination between the different scales 
 Principle 3 Encourage policy coherence through effective cross-sectoral coordination, especially between policies for water and the environment, health, energy, agriculture, industry, spatial planning and land use 
 Principle 4 Adapt the level of capacity of responsible authorities to the complexity of water challenges to be met, and to the set of competencies required to carry out their duties 
Enhancing the efficiency of water governance 
 Principle 5 Produce, update and share timely, consistent, comparable and policy-relevant water and water-related data and information, and use it to guide, assess and improve water policy 
 Principle 6 Ensure that governance arrangements help mobilize water finance and allocate financial resources in an efficient, transparent and timely manner 
 Principle 7 Ensure that sound water management regulatory frameworks are effectively implemented and enforced in pursuit of the public interest 
 Principle 8 Promote the adoption and implementation of innovative water governance practices across responsible authorities, levels of government and relevant stakeholders 
Enhancing trust and engagement in water governance 
 Principle 9 Mainstream integrity and transparency practices across water policies, water institutions and water governance frameworks for greater accountability and trust in decision-making 
 Principle 10 Promote stakeholder engagement for informed and outcome-oriented contributions to water policy design and implementation 
 Principle 11 Encourage water governance frameworks that help manage trade-offs across water users, rural and urban areas, and generations 
 Principle 12 Promote regular monitoring and evaluation of water policy and governance where appropriate, share the results with the public and make adjustments when needed 
Enhancing the effectiveness of water governance 
 Principle 1 Clearly allocate and distinguish roles and responsibilities for water policymaking, policy implementation, operational management and regulation, and foster coordination across these responsible authorities 
 Principle 2 Manage water at the appropriate scale(s) within integrated basin governance systems to reflect local conditions, and foster co-ordination between the different scales 
 Principle 3 Encourage policy coherence through effective cross-sectoral coordination, especially between policies for water and the environment, health, energy, agriculture, industry, spatial planning and land use 
 Principle 4 Adapt the level of capacity of responsible authorities to the complexity of water challenges to be met, and to the set of competencies required to carry out their duties 
Enhancing the efficiency of water governance 
 Principle 5 Produce, update and share timely, consistent, comparable and policy-relevant water and water-related data and information, and use it to guide, assess and improve water policy 
 Principle 6 Ensure that governance arrangements help mobilize water finance and allocate financial resources in an efficient, transparent and timely manner 
 Principle 7 Ensure that sound water management regulatory frameworks are effectively implemented and enforced in pursuit of the public interest 
 Principle 8 Promote the adoption and implementation of innovative water governance practices across responsible authorities, levels of government and relevant stakeholders 
Enhancing trust and engagement in water governance 
 Principle 9 Mainstream integrity and transparency practices across water policies, water institutions and water governance frameworks for greater accountability and trust in decision-making 
 Principle 10 Promote stakeholder engagement for informed and outcome-oriented contributions to water policy design and implementation 
 Principle 11 Encourage water governance frameworks that help manage trade-offs across water users, rural and urban areas, and generations 
 Principle 12 Promote regular monitoring and evaluation of water policy and governance where appropriate, share the results with the public and make adjustments when needed 
Table 3.

UNECE lessons learned on water and climate change adaptation and their connection to the OECD principles on water governance.

Lessons learned (UNECE/INBO, 2015)Water Governance (OECD, 2015)
Effectiveness
Efficiency
Trust and engagement
Clear roles and responsibilitiesAppropriate scales within basin systemsPolicy coherenceCapacityData and informationFinancingRegulatory frameworksInnovative governanceIntegrity and transparencyStakeholder engagementTrade-offs across users, rural and urban areas, and generationsMonitoring and evaluation
1. Develop an adaptation strategy at the transboundary level           
2. Ensure political support for the basin-wide strategy         
3. Demonstrate the benefits of basin-wide cooperation in adaptation          
4. Integrate climate change adaptation within river basin management planning          
5. Environmental Impact Assessment/ Strategic Environmental Assessment as legal instruments            
6. Reconcile uncertainty and confidence in recommendations and strategy          
7. Adopt a flexible approach to climate change adaptation in the transboundary basin            
8. Use ecosystem-based adaptation as a cost-effective alternative to ‘grey’ infrastructure            
9. Ensure synergies and linkages between government levels and across sectors        
10. Involve all sectors and ministries in defining adaptation priorities        
11. Climate change is one of many pressures on water resources            
12. Implement existing transboundary agreements in a flexible way.           
13. Design new transboundary agreements to be flexible           
14. Include flexibility mechanisms in water allocation schemes           
15. Climate-proof regulations for water quality           
16. Give a mandate to RBO to address climate change          
17. Create a specific working group responsible for climate change adaptation           
18. Use existing non-RBO institutions and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation           
19. Facilitate trust building and collaborative learning           
20. Apply transparency and openness throughout the process          
21. Involve decision-makers in the adaptation process from the beginning         
22. Ensure stakeholder participation in all steps of the adaptation process         
23. Ensure stakeholder participation and ownership         
24. Build transboundary teams            
25. Identify the needs for capacity development           
26. Develop a capacity-development plan           
27. Ensure that investments target the ability to integrate multidisciplinary information           
28. Facilitate the exchange of insights and experience          
29. Ensure the exchange of knowledge between technical specialists and decision-makers         
30. Clearly define the strategic objectives of communication in advance           
31. Launch an initial communication plan          
32. Raise awareness of the importance of acting at a basin-wide scale           
33. Tailor messages to your audience, based on its characteristics and needs           
34. Handle internal communication between project partners            
35. Implement and model communication at the most appropriate scale           
36. Select appropriate instruments to communicate about climate change impacts           
37. Use targeted approaches to raise awareness on the need for adaptation           
38. Identify information needs and processes for information handling          
39. Ensure collection and sharing of data, information and models          
40. Evaluate thematic, spatial and temporal areas of data coverage and gaps          
41. Build a common repository of the information to be communicated          
42. Develop a common understanding of concepts           
43. Consider the whole basin and all steps of the water cycle in the vulnerability assessment            
44. Assess vulnerability at both the basin and sub-basin levels           
45. Link vulnerability assessment with capacity-building for decision-makers and stakeholders           
46. Harmonize and integrate the use of models and scenarios            
47. Involve stakeholders in vulnerability assessments          
48. Develop a mix of structural and non-structural measures            
49. Develop a common monitoring system           
50. Ensure that monitoring and observation systems can adjust           
51. Develop a transboundary early warning system           
52. Assess economic, environmental and social costs and benefits           
53. When selecting adaptation measures consider their impact on mitigation            
54. Establish a transparent, participatory and explicit prioritization process          
55. Locate adaptation measures at the most beneficial location          
56. Consider using economic analysis to build the case for action           
57. Ensure adequate financing for adaptation through a mix of public and private funds            
58. Mainstream adaptation costs into the overall costs of water management            
59. Use economic instruments for water management            
60. Develop a theory of change            
61. Use a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools          
62. Evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures         
63. Establish mechanisms for regularly reviewing the assessments         
Lessons learned (UNECE/INBO, 2015)Water Governance (OECD, 2015)
Effectiveness
Efficiency
Trust and engagement
Clear roles and responsibilitiesAppropriate scales within basin systemsPolicy coherenceCapacityData and informationFinancingRegulatory frameworksInnovative governanceIntegrity and transparencyStakeholder engagementTrade-offs across users, rural and urban areas, and generationsMonitoring and evaluation
1. Develop an adaptation strategy at the transboundary level           
2. Ensure political support for the basin-wide strategy         
3. Demonstrate the benefits of basin-wide cooperation in adaptation          
4. Integrate climate change adaptation within river basin management planning          
5. Environmental Impact Assessment/ Strategic Environmental Assessment as legal instruments            
6. Reconcile uncertainty and confidence in recommendations and strategy          
7. Adopt a flexible approach to climate change adaptation in the transboundary basin            
8. Use ecosystem-based adaptation as a cost-effective alternative to ‘grey’ infrastructure            
9. Ensure synergies and linkages between government levels and across sectors        
10. Involve all sectors and ministries in defining adaptation priorities        
11. Climate change is one of many pressures on water resources            
12. Implement existing transboundary agreements in a flexible way.           
13. Design new transboundary agreements to be flexible           
14. Include flexibility mechanisms in water allocation schemes           
15. Climate-proof regulations for water quality           
16. Give a mandate to RBO to address climate change          
17. Create a specific working group responsible for climate change adaptation           
18. Use existing non-RBO institutions and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation           
19. Facilitate trust building and collaborative learning           
20. Apply transparency and openness throughout the process          
21. Involve decision-makers in the adaptation process from the beginning         
22. Ensure stakeholder participation in all steps of the adaptation process         
23. Ensure stakeholder participation and ownership         
24. Build transboundary teams            
25. Identify the needs for capacity development           
26. Develop a capacity-development plan           
27. Ensure that investments target the ability to integrate multidisciplinary information           
28. Facilitate the exchange of insights and experience          
29. Ensure the exchange of knowledge between technical specialists and decision-makers         
30. Clearly define the strategic objectives of communication in advance           
31. Launch an initial communication plan          
32. Raise awareness of the importance of acting at a basin-wide scale           
33. Tailor messages to your audience, based on its characteristics and needs           
34. Handle internal communication between project partners            
35. Implement and model communication at the most appropriate scale           
36. Select appropriate instruments to communicate about climate change impacts           
37. Use targeted approaches to raise awareness on the need for adaptation           
38. Identify information needs and processes for information handling          
39. Ensure collection and sharing of data, information and models          
40. Evaluate thematic, spatial and temporal areas of data coverage and gaps          
41. Build a common repository of the information to be communicated          
42. Develop a common understanding of concepts           
43. Consider the whole basin and all steps of the water cycle in the vulnerability assessment            
44. Assess vulnerability at both the basin and sub-basin levels           
45. Link vulnerability assessment with capacity-building for decision-makers and stakeholders           
46. Harmonize and integrate the use of models and scenarios            
47. Involve stakeholders in vulnerability assessments          
48. Develop a mix of structural and non-structural measures            
49. Develop a common monitoring system           
50. Ensure that monitoring and observation systems can adjust           
51. Develop a transboundary early warning system           
52. Assess economic, environmental and social costs and benefits           
53. When selecting adaptation measures consider their impact on mitigation            
54. Establish a transparent, participatory and explicit prioritization process          
55. Locate adaptation measures at the most beneficial location          
56. Consider using economic analysis to build the case for action           
57. Ensure adequate financing for adaptation through a mix of public and private funds            
58. Mainstream adaptation costs into the overall costs of water management            
59. Use economic instruments for water management            
60. Develop a theory of change            
61. Use a portfolio of monitoring and evaluation tools          
62. Evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures         
63. Establish mechanisms for regularly reviewing the assessments         

Where a range of methods and tools on vulnerability and impacts assessment is available, recognition of the importance of water governance has been growing (Timmerman et al., 2008; Stakhiv, 2011; PROVIA, 2013). To accommodate the need for improved guidance on the process of developing a transboundary adaptation strategy, including governance issues, the UNECE Task Force on Water and Climate prepared a Guidance on Water and Climate Adaptation (UNECE, 2009a) in 2009. The Guidance describes the stepwise approach towards climate proofing of transboundary water management. It addresses possible impacts of climate change on flood and drought occurrences, health-related aspects as well as practical ways to cope with the transboundary impacts through adaptation, inter alia, by integrated management of surface and groundwater for flood and drought mitigation and response, including the benefits of floods in increasing water availability and improving the ecological status of waters. Land use, regional and spatial planning, and land use management, and their role in reducing flood and drought risks and damage potential, in particular in the transboundary context, were also considered. The work of the pilot projects under the Task Force were based on this guidance. After nine years of cooperation under the Task Force, on the basis of the knowledge and experiences gained through the pilot projects and workshops, a publication was prepared on the lessons learned, highlighted with case studies (UNECE/INBO, 2015). The 63 lessons as inventoried are not intended to provide a complete set of lessons and recommendations to develop an adaptation strategy, but together offer important inputs for such an effort.

This paper provides an overview of these lessons learned and puts them in the context of the OECD principles on water governance to highlight that water governance is central in overcoming the water and climate crisis. Moreover, this paper highlights that good water governance entails a variety of activities that are intertwined and cannot be considered stand-alone elements.

An enabling environment

Transboundary cooperation in water management is supported or hindered by various factors relating to both the characteristics of the issues and the characteristics of the general cooperation between the countries. If, for instance, the cooperation incentives of a specific problem are largely symmetric between the riparian countries and the problem pressure is high, the prospects for effective cooperation are good. When it comes to climate change adaptation, however, the problems are often not entirely clear as there is usually a high level of uncertainty that hinders a joint transboundary appreciation of the problem. But if there is general cooperation between countries in collecting data and performing joint projects, characterized by mutual trust and cooperation, and there is a clear institutional setting that is problem-oriented, flexible and equipped with a centralized organization structure, there is a solid basis for countering any problem (Lindemann, 2006; Timmerman et al., 2011). Transboundary cooperation in water management nevertheless heavily depends upon circumstances at the national level. Weak social and institutional capacity, poor legal and policy frameworks, and bad management practices bear great consequences in the transboundary context where they are even more amplified by differences between riparian countries. Moreover, a country's capacity to adapt to changes over time is influenced by its productive base, including natural and man-made capital assets, social networks and entitlements, human capital and institutions, governance, national income, health and technology, etc. (UNECE, 2009a). What is needed for transboundary cooperation is an enabling environment (Timmerman & Bernardini, 2008).

Governance agreements that can promote sustainable resource management even as the resource itself is evolving and shifting, often with large levels of analytical uncertainty, are challenging even when political and administrative boundaries are not relevant. Transboundary water management is, in essence, more complex than national water management because the water management regimes usually differ more between countries than within countries. Regimes are ‘implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations' (Krasner, 1983). Transboundary water management requires coordination over different political, legal and institutional settings as well as over different information management approaches and financial arrangements. If these elements and their interrelationships are shaped to support transboundary adaptation to climate change, an enabling environment comes into place (Raadgever et al., 2008; Roll et al., 2008; Timmerman & Bernardini, 2008; Timmerman et al., 2011).

The political setting refers to the goals and strategies of government, or other organizations, to reach those goals. Policies should fulfil current needs and have the ability to perform well in multiple possible futures and in a changing environment. A major challenge in managing transboundary waters is that no single government has complete control, while the evolving resource qualities can destabilize what seem like stable and effective institutional arrangements with novel, unpredicted and transformative events (Roll & Timmerman, 2006; Timmerman et al., 2011). As a consequence, the waters are managed in the context of potential inconsistency and potential conflict of policies of the different countries involved. The legal setting relates to the full set of national and international laws and agreements. Water management planning and implementation should be based on the existing legal framework and, in turn, may influence the legal framework. The institutional setting refers to the organizational context. The complexity of water management implies that there is a wide range of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. The information management refers to the collection and exchange of information within and between countries. The financial arrangements, finally, refer to the (financial) resources available to carry out and implement transboundary adaptation measures (Timmerman & Bernardini, 2008; Timmerman et al., 2011).

Policy setting

Water policies that are in place in a country can be found in the formal documents which contain current and future water management strategies. As policies have a strategic character, especially in view of climate change, they should have a long-term time horizon: current management should actively prepare for future changes (Timmerman et al., 2011). Working towards climate change adaptation, it is important that this becomes integrated into surface water and groundwater management planning not only because it is very difficult to separate between adaptation to climate change and coping with current climate variability (Lunduka et al., 2012) but also because this will ensure that water management takes account of the future changes. These timescales should certainly span decades and potentially centuries given the very long operational lifetimes of many types of water infrastructure such as for energy, agriculture, urban water management and ecological management. In truth, most governance systems and management systems are not designed with these timescales in mind, over which unforeseen and transformative events are quite likely to occur in a period of rapid climate change (Tortajada, 2016).

Water management policies should be based on a basin-wide understanding of climate impacts and trends. This should include an understanding of the interconnections between regional impacts, integrate over the surface water and groundwater resources, and include all riparian countries of a transboundary basin. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) can complement this effort and support cooperation between riparian countries (UNECE/INBO, 2015).

However, adaptation policies should consider climate change as one of many pressures on water resources. Nevertheless, adaptation strategies should be developed at the transboundary level, especially because such strategies are often more effective (Bruno et al., 2014). In this it is important to demonstrate the benefits of basin-wide cooperation. A benefit assessment exercise can help countries to fully realize the potential benefits of cooperation and provide arguments and compelling evidence for cooperating and help to ensure the much-needed political support and funding for the cooperation process (UN-Water, 2008; UNECE, 2015). This will also help to locate adaptation measures at the most beneficial location in a transboundary basin and to share the costs and benefits of the measures.

Uncertainty in climate change predictions, low reliability of data and confidence in recommendations and strategy need to be reconciled to be able to develop adaptation strategies. A flexible approach to such policies can help in this respect. Indeed, in many cases, credible and high-confidence projections of future conditions may be increasingly rare and unlikely, prompting a more open-ended approach that explicitly considers multiple alternative pathways that can be navigated through as information and perspectives deepen (Haasnoot et al., 2013). Adaptive techniques include scenario planning, experimental approaches that involve learning from experience, and the development of flexible and low-regret solutions that are resilient to uncertainty (IPCC, 2014).

Creating a safe environment in terms of protection against climate change constraints is an important basis for socioeconomic vitality but the necessary flexibility can also become a contravention as it interferes with the certainty of right. Care should therefore be taken that flexible policies do not infringe on vested interests or diminish new investments. Compensation can, within certain boundaries, help to find innovative solutions for necessary alterations in land use. Applying the precautionary principle, on the other hand, will require incorporation of long-term climate proofing of new developments. In such a case, e.g., building in flood-prone areas should only be done if the construction is designed in a flood-proof way. Especially in transboundary basins, a fair distribution of benefits, risks and welfare may be complex (Driessen & van Rijswick, 2011; Keessen & van Rijswick, 2012; van Buuren et al., 2013).

Policies should also incorporate ecosystem-based adaptation and hybrid approaches as a cost-effective alternative to ‘grey’ infrastructure. Incorporating ecological principles into the building of water infrastructure and dams can preserve both natural capital and ecosystem services while also providing sources of energy and water security where they are most needed (Palmer, 2014; Palmer et al., 2015).

Legal setting

Water management planning and implementation should be based on the existing legal framework and, in turn, may influence the legal framework. Legal and regulatory frameworks should be complete and clear and contain sufficient detail to offer guidance and support without being too restrictive. Furthermore, water laws can establish or influence formal networks, structures for information management and financial aspects of water management (Raadgever et al., 2008; Timmerman et al., 2011). Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment can be used as legal instruments to implement climate change adaptation (UNECE/INBO, 2015). Finance mechanisms can also be a powerful mechanism to assess and address climate risk and mainstream adaptation approaches (Ray & Brown, 2015; Mendoza et al., 2016; Matthews, in press).

Especially in transboundary water management, transboundary agreements can become a hindrance for cooperation. Therefore, existing transboundary agreements should be implemented progressively in a flexible way while new transboundary agreements should be designed to be flexible, depending on the changing climate as it is unfolding (Koeppel, 2015). This can, for instance, be done by including flexibility mechanisms in water allocation schemes. Also, regulations for water quality should be made climate-proof. In this way, legislation can support cooperation (UNECE/INBO, 2015). Care should be taken that in this process the certainty of right is not violated, as described in the previous section.

An example of making transboundary agreements more flexible is the amendment of the decades-old transboundary cooperation treaty between Mexico and the USA on the Colorado River Basin, which assumed from its ratification that water cycle conditions were fixed and stationary, and thus decreed inflexible water quantity ‘deliveries’ from upstream to downstream users. Hydrological and climatic conditions have shifted radically in recent decades, creating significant regional tensions in the basin. Minute 319, as a revision of the treaty, implements measures to share both shortages and surpluses, and facilitates long-term collaborative efforts that engender interdependencies, marking a radical change in the basin's governance framework (Buono & Eckstein, 2014; Gerlak, 2015). A project in the Sava River Basin showed that the legal framework for regional cooperation should not just oblige countries to consider the impact of climate change and adaptation measures for flood protection in the basin; projects implemented at the basin level should provide the countries with the necessary information to enable them to achieve the targets set in common legislation, and ultimately lead towards the achievement of sustainable flood protection in the basin (Komatina & Grošelj, 2015).

Institutional setting

Water management is a complex issue that involves a range of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. Given the difficulty for countries to jointly manage their shared waters, impacts of climate change may hit water resources hardest in transboundary water management situations (Bakker, 2006). All stakeholders should be invited to share and discuss their perspectives in the subsequent stages of the policy process and develop a process of active learning. These interactions can promote constructive conflict resolution which can result in inclusive agreements that the parties are committed to (Timmerman et al., 2011).

To ensure synergies and linkages between adaptation actions at different government levels and across different sectors, all sectors and ministries should be involved in defining adaptation priorities (Lunduka et al., 2012). Applying transparency and openness throughout the process is important in this, not in the least to facilitate trust-building and collaborative learning. River basin organizations (RBO) play an important role in developing and implementing adaptation actions (Jaspers & Gupta, 2014) and should be given a mandate to do so. When no RBO is present, existing non-RBO institutions and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation should be used to the extent possible. It should be ensured that stakeholders can participate at different decision-making levels and in all steps of the development and implementation of adaptation actions (UNECE/INBO, 2015).

Information

Information is needed to assess the current situation and existing vulnerabilities (for example, water quantity and quality) to develop understanding of the possible futures. It is also needed to monitor policy progress. Such information should be collected based on an understanding of the need for information for policymaking and policy evaluation (Timmerman et al., 2011; Timmerman, 2015).

Investments in information and data-sharing systems should target not only technological solutions, but also capacity development and the ability to integrate multidisciplinary information. This includes facilitating the exchange of insights and experience between stakeholders on adaptation activities to learn and build capacities. Also, the exchange of knowledge and perspectives between technical specialists and decision makers should be ensured (UNECE/INBO, 2015), promoting a shared vision and definition of sustainability within the region.

As hydro meteorological data can be a powerful resource with potential to profoundly influence lives and livelihoods, enhanced awareness of justice related to data sharing, data confidence and data calibration is needed (Kibler et al., 2014). Therefore, collection and sharing of the appropriate and necessary data, information and models for the entire basin and across the water cycle is needed. Nevertheless, it is necessary to ensure that monitoring and observation systems are capable of adjusting to the possible changes in information needs (Timmerman, 2011). Monitoring is important for evaluation of the effectiveness of adaptation measures. Mechanisms are therefore needed for regularly reviewing the assessments in order to ensure flexible adaptation (UNECE/INBO, 2015).

Economics and finance

Sufficient resources should be available to ensure sustainable water management. Financial as well as ecological sustainability can be improved by recognizing water as an economic good and recovering the costs as much as possible from the users (Timmerman et al., 2011; OECD, 2013).

In developing climate adaptation actions, an important element is to compare the costs and benefits of inaction with the costs and benefits of the action. Especially non-monetary benefits of climate action can be significant, particularly for local households and the environment, but are often indirect. They often come in the form of ecosystem services that are difficult to valuate (Costanza et al., 2014). Monetary costs are often easily estimated, particularly where a project involves capital investments (Lunduka et al., 2012). Nevertheless, the benefits may come at other locations than the concrete measure. It is therefore important to assess the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of adaptation options at a basin scale. Riparian countries should focus on generating basin-wide benefits and on sharing those benefits in a manner that is agreed to be fair (Bernardini, 2007). An economic analysis can be used to build the case for action and to inform the selection of adaptation options. In this it should be realized that environmental protection is a condition, and a prerequisite, for long-term economic growth (Condrea & Bostan, 2008).

Financing for climate adaptation can be safeguarded through a mix of public and private funds (Pauw et al., 2016). Financing terms for water infrastructure such as bonds can also call for the assessment of climate risk for investors, a recent trend for private sector and development bank-funded ‘climate’ and ‘green’ bonds (Matthews, in press). Moreover, as adaptation in water management is difficult to separate from regular water management actions, adaptation costs should be mainstreamed into the overall costs of water management (UNECE/INBO, 2015).

Discussion and conclusions

The lessons learned publication builds on knowledge and experiences collected through a range of pilot projects and workshops and inputs from experts spanning diverse technical (e.g., scientific, engineering) and governance and legal disciplines. The lessons show that a wide variety of actions is needed when it comes to developing a climate change adaptation strategy in water management. Many of these actions deal with ensuring that the right people and appropriate institutions are involved in the right way. Other actions are needed to ensure that these individuals and institutions can participate in the process by providing the necessary capacities as well as information. In the transboundary context, in which the lessons learned publication was developed, additional actions are needed to ensure that the process is accessible for all riparian countries and that the interests and stakes of the riparian countries are included in the process. All these actions provide the basis for an inclusive process towards an adaptation strategy.

Table 3 provides an overview of the UNECE lessons learned on water and climate change adaptation in transboundary water management and links these lessons to the OECD principles on water governance. The lessons learned can be seen as concrete actions connected to one or more of the OECD principles. From Table 3, it becomes clear that water governance is a complex process that is not easily guided. To fulfil one principle, a range of actions may be needed while almost all actions relate to two or more of the principles. This fluidity or intertwinedness of the principles seemingly complicates implementing proper water governance. The principles, however, show the fundaments of water governance while the lessons learned show (an incomplete set of) actions that can be taken to realize these principles and, with that, improve the overall water management situation and in the end alleviate the local and regional water crises.

As stated, the lessons learned do not provide a complete set of actions to achieve good water governance. Nevertheless, implementing all the lessons learned as described in the publication will ensure huge steps towards improved water management and improved adaptation to climate change. While good water governance is rarely achieved within single countries, the engagement of two or more countries often proves to be a huge challenge. Perhaps in the end the greatest asset for technical personnel and policymakers will be to achieve sufficient trust between countries to enable implementation.

Finally, it is clear that the effectiveness of adaptation to climate change is inconceivable without progress on water governance in general. In other words, developing climate change adaptation measures needs also to improve in parallel the water governance system at transboundary scale and obviously in the riparian countries.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments that helped us improve the paper and like to thank all the contributors to the UNECE/INBO report ‘Water and Climate Change Adaptation in Transboundary Basins: Lessons Learned and Good Practices’ (UNECE/INBO, 2015), that is an important basis for this paper.

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