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Water resource management and climate change adaptation : a holistic and multiple criteria perspective

Miller, Kathleen A. and Belton, Valerie (2014) Water resource management and climate change adaptation : a holistic and multiple criteria perspective. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 19 (3). pp. 289-308. ISSN 1381-2386

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Anthropogenic climate change is likely to significantly increase human exposure to droughts and floods. It will also alter seasonal patterns of water availability and affect water quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems with various implications for social and economic wellbeing. Policy development for water resource adaptation needs to allow for a holistic and transparent analysis of the probable consequences of policy options for the wide variety of water uses and users, and the existing ecosystem services associated with any stream basin. This paper puts forward an innovative methodological framework for planning development-compatible climate policies drawing on multi-criteria decision analysis and an implicit risk-management approach to the economics of climate change. Its objectives are to describe how the generic methodology could be tailored for analysis of long-range water planning and policy options in developing countries, and to describe the place of climate change considerations in water governance and planning processes. An experimental thought-exercise applying the methodology to water policy development in Yemen provides further insights on the complexity of water adaptation planning. It also highlights the value of conducting sensitivity analysis to explore the implications of multiple climate scenarios, and the importance of accounting for policy portfolios rather than individual policy options. Rather than constituting a tool that can generate clear measures of optimal solutions in the context of adaptation to uncertain climate futures, we find that this approach is best suited to supporting comprehensive and inclusive planning processes, where the focus is on finding socially acceptable paths forward.