Water productivity and storage

Work Package 2 (Boosting water productivity and integrated storage management at basin scale) maps existing water stores with links to current and future needs by sector; develops a water storage diagnostic tool; and carries out political economy analyses and socio-economic assessments, keeping in mind partner priorities.

The challenge

Climate change, particularly climate extremes, requires integrated management of water, energy, and food systems, particularly in water-stressed regions. Inefficient use of water, particularly in agriculture and siloed development interventions, means that landscapes and basins are not managed sustainably, jeopardizing ecosystem health and undermining water, food, and energy security. Poor management of water storage – critical for ensuring supply when it is needed – exacerbates the situation in many basins. This is a waste of natural resources, including water, which too often leads to competition and conflict between resource users, weakens rural livelihoods, and undermines national economies.

Major constraints for boosting water productivity and sustainable management of water storage are: i) the lack of capacity for nexus thinking and coordination, ii) the difficulty of gathering high-quality data, iii) deeply entrenched gender and social inequalities, and iv) the science-policy gap that is seldom bridged by technical solutions alone. Our Theory of Change assumes that policy makers will be motivated to work more collaboratively across sectors when they have practical and easy-to-use tools and processes that address the day-to-day challenges they face.

Our research

Work Package 2 research has focused on how water use can be optimized to enhance basin water productivity at different scales to equitably benefit rural communities; how to best manage water storage options now and in future; and how to engage planners, policymakers, and investors.

Research questions

  1. How much water storage do we have, how has it been changing, how effectively has it supported productive uses, and how much will we need in the future?
  2. How can WEFE interventions improve water productivity at local/farm, watershed and river basin scale considering whole-system productivity?
  3. What are the implications of alternative investments in water productivity for poor rural women and men?
  4. How can basin-level water resource productivity be optimized for cross-sectoral benefits and enhance climate resilience through understanding the political economy, harmonizing institutions, and formulating effective policies and incentives?

2022 outcomes

Decision support systems are under development for the Aral Sea and Ganges basins, and water storage maps are under development in four basins. Contextual assessments have begun in the Eastern Nile and the Aral Sea with support from government agency partners. An inventory of tools to measure the productivity of water in the Aral Sea has been compiled; methods for integrated water storage have been developed; and there has been considerable engagement with stakeholders to prepare for uptake and adoption.

In the Shashe basin, a tributary of the Limpopo River, NEXUS Gains aims to promote broader thinking, away from reliance on traditional gray infrastructure to more integrated approaches that combine gray and green infrastructure. A storage assessment was carried out to capture the potential volume of water storage available in dams, groundwater, and soil, and a mapping exercise was conducted to evaluate how much storage is available throughout the basin. It is hoped that this work will encourage a shift in water storage planning.

Work Package 2 innovations

  • A strategic diagnostic tool to design, evaluate, and implement integrated water storage solutions.
  • Decision support system to boost water productivity at basin scale.

Contact us

Jonathan Lautze:

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