Nepal – How Water Safety Plans can be used to plan for climate change impacts

The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) in Nepal has committed itself to mainstreaming Water Safety Plans (WSPs) across all the country’s 75 districts. The country has significant water quality problems and the government is urgently seeking to address regular cholera outbreaks. They have seen the benefit of WSPs in improving water quality and so are providing resources to improve water supplies. A number of high quality WSPs have been implemented which are being used as models and resource centres for the rest of the country.

Each district is classified according to ecological zone – mountain, hill or terai (low lying flat land). Nepal is a country which has been experiencing major water resource (and quality) changes which are blamed on climate change. The nature of these changes varies according to ecological zone. In the more mountainous areas a reduction in winter snow and rainfall has seen many springs reduce their yield or dry up altogether so threatening existing water supplies. In the lower hilly and terai areas the issue has been one of longer and more intense rainfall events during the monsoon, leading to flooding and damage to infrastructure. This negative impact on water quantity also has a negative impact on water quality.

WHO and MoUD, with the support of a UK government Department for International Development (DFID)-funded climate change resilience project are looking at how water supplies can be sustained in a changing water resource context. WSPs present an ideal framework for evaluating the risks to individual water supplies from climate change and preparing contingency plans. A WSP process is described below along with how that process can support climate change impact identification and contingency planning.

WSP Step Adaptation to account for Climate Change
Identify and review hazards and hazardous events Simply identify any new hazards or hazardous events, or those anticipated in future, due to climate change as part of routine WSP review and monitoring
Assess and regularly reassess risks from hazards Assess whether risks from existing hazards have increased, or may be expected to increase in future, as a result of climate change influenced hazardous events
Identify and implement control measures Identify what measures may need to be taken to address new hazards/hazardous events or increased risks of existing hazards or those that can be anticipated due to climate change
Monitor Continue to monitor for climate change impacts

Mr Abadh Kishore Mishra, joint secretary, MoUD said: ”The impact of climate change in Nepal is clearly seen in the depletion of water sources in both hilly and terai regions giving a big stress to the system both in quantity and quality issues and ultimately in the functionality. Water Safety Plans increasingly need to address security (water resource) issues.”