This background note, published by the Overseas Development Institute, provides an overview of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that face the water sector due to climate change. It also summarises of some of the adaptive strategies, targeting both supply and demand of water, being employed across various sectors in the developing world and offers suggestions going forward. It concludes by assessing how current knowledge of climate change can help inform future planning of water sector interventions. Acknowledging the inherent difficulties of predicting complex systems, the document divides the impacts of climate change on the water sector into knowns and unknowns. On the supply side, it is generally accepted that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes and in the tropics, but decrease in the sub-tropics. Growing evidence shows decreased snow cover in many regions as well as valuable glacial resources (with a projected loss of 60 per cent by 2050). The result is changes in flood and drought patterns putting many more people at risk. Urbanisation, rising populations, rising sea level, bio-fuel production and agriculture are all expected to greatly increase demand for water. These are all trends however; other factors are much more difficult to predict, namely socio-political events, markets and local-scale climate modelling. Four broad options are outlined for adaptive approaches.
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