Upper Yangtze: Integrated Water Management & Climate Adaptation
By Christian Willi, Rao Fu, Li Fan, Dr. Liyan Wang, Dr. Jijun Xu, Dr. Deng Pan 16 August, 2018
Sino-Swiss experts introduce their Jinsha basin project
The Yangtze River Basin is the socio-economic powerhouse of China. The upper reach of the Yangtze River is called Jinsha River. In the last 2-3 decades, the Jinsha River Basin (JRB) has experienced warmer temperatures and increasing extreme events such as flood and drought, causing significant economic loss. At the same time, different sectors and stakeholders, from industry, residential areas, hydropower, agriculture, ecosystems to tourism, are all very sensitive to water issues and climate change.
To improve the overall water resource management in the JRB and to adapt successfully to climate change and socio-economic development, in 2014, China and Switzerland jointly proposed a cooperation project “Jinsha River Basin Integrated Water Resources and Risk Management under Climate Change ” (referred to as “JRB Project”).
The first phase of this Sino-Swiss cooperation project, finalised in 2018, is to develop methods, instruments and models to enhance the water management practices for the JRB and to enable adaptation strategies and measures to climate and socio-economic change. This article shares some of the key findings from the final project report.
A holistic, multidisciplinary and data-driven approach: 7 research areas
The JRB project combines advanced multidisciplinary studies and technologies from hydrology, water resources, meteorology, climate change etc., with observation and measurements, numerical simulation and modern GIS technology, following holistic processes of “data collection – model building – trend analysis – impact analysis – adaptation measures”. Under this holistic framework, Chinese and Swiss experts jointly carried out integrated research activities in the following areas:
1. Historical Extreme Events
The newly developed standardised event registration platform proved to be beneficial to record, visualise and analyse heterogeneous event data sets. It allows data input by different stakeholders using various archives and indicating the uncertainties of each dataset.
2. Analysis of Hydro-Meteorological Characteristics
The hydro-meteorological data analysis tool “HydroAnalysis R-package”, which was specifically developed for this study, allows analysis of basic statistic parameters including trends.
3. Glacier, Snow Cover and Snow Melt Monitoring
The glacier terrestrial observation station established in this project provides basic data support for understanding the impact of climate change on glacier melting and runoff. For the first time, glacier changes on Yulong Snow Mountain are visualised by real-time monitoring.
4. Predict Runoff, Prevent Flooding
A hydro-meteorological forecasting model (HMFM) suitable for JRB with integrated large reservoirs has been developed, which allows hydrological forecasting for more than fifty locations all over the JRB based on weather predictions on three time-scales.
5. Climate Change Scenarios and Impact Assessment
Based on the scenarios RCP 4.5 and 8.5 for future greenhouse gas emissions and their uncertainties, as well as 36 CMIP5 general circulation models (GCMs), this project established 8 climate change scenarios for the expected daily temperature and precipitation in the near future (2021-2050) and 16 scenarios for the far future (2070-2099). Based on these projections, the impact on water supply and demand, river discharge, water-related extreme events as well as on sectors like hydropower, agriculture (e.g. crop suitability) and aquatic ecosystems were analysed.
6. Adaptation Strategies and Measures
The project identified key challenges in implementing long-term climate change adaptation strategy, such as definition of the objectives of adaptation, coordination between different sectors and the corresponding institutions at various levels, dealing with uncertainties and capacity building. The project also did two case studies: one on managing water supply and demand in Lijiang City by using the Water Evaluation and Planning Model (WEAP), and the other on measures to mitigate extreme weather risks in Yibin City.
7. Knowledge Management
An international platform for knowledge and expertise exchange on water resources management and climate change adaptation was built. A project brochure (in Chinese) can be downloaded for a glance of project highlight. More interactive information can be accessed here.
Lessons learned for future work
This project has not only created a solid fundament of research results and powerful and sound tools to enhance the water management practices for JRB, but also enhanced cooperation skills and mutual trust among Chinese and Swiss experts. It paved the way for substantial implementation work in the future.
All these will contribute to practical management needs of Changjiang Water Resources Commission
All these will contribute to practical management needs of Changjiang Water Resources Commission (CWRC)*, and also allow sufficient preparation of future implementation of IWRM in JRB and in other river basins in China.
Impact on technical level resulting from Phase 1 are analysed and detailed in the project report. Below are some of the key learnings from this project:
- Data access and sharing was of crucial importance for the project. Trustful relationships had to be built and could finally help to solve data issues;
- A robust knowledge base is the key to implement optimised adaptation measures to climate change. With many stakeholders involved, it proved to be a necessary precondition to establish specific web-based data platforms to facilitate the data-exchange and gain a knowledge about the uncertainties;
- The climate change impact on water resources was and is still a new topic for the public in China. The awareness raising of climate change impacts will remain a continuous process throughout the project implementation with stakeholders and decision-makers;
- Uncertainties about climate change impacts and other future developments have been addressed in the research work of the project, and they will remain a challenging issue when trying to influence decision-making and shaping policies and strategies; and
- The planning periods in China (5 to 15 years) may create conflicts with the long-term impacts of climate change and the long-life span of water infrastructures. The decision to consider two future time periods (near future 2021-2050, far future 2070-2099) in the project was the result of intense discussions in the project team and with stakeholders, to ensure the scientific value but also the practical use of the project results.
*Editor note: Changjiang also known as Yangtze
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