Water-related Hazards & Climate Change

Water-related hazards like floods, droughts, pollution and related issues, are increasing in frequency and intensity almost everywhere around the globe due to population growth and effects of climate change.

Flood protection measurements

Increased rainfall intensity and duration is causing more extensive flooding in both rural and urban areas. In coastal regions, intensified hurricanes and storm surges lead to increased damage, affecting areas that until recently were not even perceived to be vulnerable. Flood protection measures that seemed adequate in the past, often no longer serve their purpose.

Effects of floods and droughts

In other parts of the world, prolonged drought periods are reducing water supplies and often lead to severe food shortage. That is why securing water availability is one of the major challenges for the coming century: potential ‘wars on water’ already pose a real threat to peace in a number of shared river basins around the world.

Environmental degration and poor water quality conditions impose severe threats to human health. The spreading of water borne diseases already leads to larger numbers of casualties than the direct effect of floods. Education on causes and consequences of water pollution is badly needed on a global scale.

Protection against extremes of floods and droughts not only requires proper spatial planning at the local, regional and river basin scale, but also taking structural and non-structural measures. Building reservoirs for increasing water security can help reducing floods or avoiding droughts, but how to operate the reservoirs and achieve a fair balance between often conflicting interests in scarce resources? And how can we minimize the environmental impacts of reservoirs and dams? Non-structural measures like early warning systems can save lives, but how to reach people in remote areas in time? These are all research issues that receive considerable attention at UNESCO-IHE.

Water quality standards

In order to assure proper water quality standards, adequate measures need to be taken to avoid pollution. First and foremost this requires education, but research and capacity development, the key competences of UNESCO-IHE, are all important as well. Installing monitoring systems is vital for assessing water quality conditions, but how to maintain such systems? Preparing for calamity situations is crucial for saving lives, but how to finance emergency management and training?  Setting up Learning Alliances to jointly generate answers is just one focus area of research at UNESCO-IHE.

Related Chair Groups

Coastal Systems and Engineering and Port Development

Flood Resilience

Hydrology and Water Resources

River Basin Development