Declan Conway will discuss the paper ‘Water Security and Climate Change in Africa: Past, Future and Present’ as part of the Grantham Workshop Series. 


‘Climate change is creating new hazard combinations in rapidly changing socioeconomic conditions across Africa including population growth, urbanisation and infrastructure development. This is generating a shifting landscape of risk and threats to water security, playing out against ongoing challenges in effective service delivery. I profile two examples of research on these topics and outline a new project designed to bring alternative perspectives to research and practice on water security. First, I review the socioeconomic impacts of the major 2015/16 El Niño event on businesses in Lusaka, Zambia. The impact pathway comprises complex interaction between physical and social systems and involves drought associated disruption to electricity supply via impacts on hydropower. Findings highlight the need for public provision of enabling conditions – including access to finance – and opportunities to improve climate information services for businesses.’

‘Second, the Rufiji River Basin is the largest and most economically important river basin in Tanzania and is targeted for extensive development. Development plans featuring strong interdependencies across the water-energy-food and environment sectors are stress-tested with climate projections, focusing on the risk of failure to meet stakeholder prioritised multi-sector performance metrics. Projected risks for the mid-21st century are similar to those of the present day, however, a repeat of an early-20th century multi-year drought would challenge the viability of proposed irrigation and hydropower infrastructure. Critical future climate risk in the Rufiji arises from increasing interannual variability in rainfall which in many (but not all) cases increases the risk of failure to meet performance objectives for hydropower and environmental flow performance. There is a need to develop contingency plans for the worst-case extremes (in the past and future), for example, the design of drought management plans to handle multi-year dry conditions.’

‘Finally, I introduce BASIN – Behavioural Adaptation for water Security and INclusion – a new multi-partner project focused on Africa. Bibliometric mapping of research using behavioural and psychological perspectives shows limited application in Africa and to water security. BASIN aims to synthesise, assess and test the application potential of multi-level behavioural and psychological perspectives for adaptation in a range of climate-water security complexes in Burkina Faso, Malawi and Tanzania.’

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