‘WISE-UP to climate’ is a project that demonstrates natural infrastructure as a ‘nature-based solution’ for climate change adaptation and sustainable development. The project will develop knowledge on how to use portfolios of built water infrastructure (eg. dams, levees, irrigation channels) and natural infrastructure (eg. wetlands, floodplains, watersheds) for poverty reduction, water-energy-food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience. WISE-UP will show the application of optimal portfolios of built and natural infrastructure using dialogue with decision-makers to agree trade-offs. WISE-UP will run over a four-year period and link ecosystem services more directly into water infrastructure development in the Tana (Kenya) and Volta (Ghana-Burkina Faso) river basins.
Services from ecosystems underpin water, food and energy security (see fig.1). Without healthy ecosystems in well-functioning watersheds, the infrastructure built for irrigation, hydropower or municipal water supply may not function sustainably, and is unlikely to achieve the economic returns necessary to justify investments. Equally, external factors such as climate change can adversely affect the stock of services an ecosystem provides. With its functions integral to water, food and energy, and there interdependence, nature is part of the infrastructure portfolio.
Combining Built and Natural Infrastructure
Water security is vital for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Investments are made worldwide in water infrastructure, for storage and flood control, water supply and quality, and for disaster-risk reduction. However, these investments and their benefits are not always evenly distributed, with least-developed countries often the most poorly serviced.
The benefits from combined water infrastructure portfolios include water, food and energy security, industrial development and wealth generation. Benefits are amplified in particular when ecosystem services are linked more directly into water infrastructure development. When river basins themselves are treated as infrastructure, more optimal outcomes for poverty reduction, ecosystem management, growth and climate resilience can be achieved.
Climate Resilient Policies and Programmes
Growth, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation are issues with the highest priority on the policy agenda for many developing countries. Water infrastructure is seen as an asset for growth and poverty reduction, and in strategies for climate change adaptation. However, competing policy narratives argue that water infrastructure degrades ecosystem services that the poor rely on most. In some cases, this may impact ecosystem services that the poor rely on, and may impact the natural resilience of river basins to climate change.
WISE-UP will support new policies and strategies for water infrastructure that will better and more coherently address and integrate policy goals for growth, poverty reduction and climate adaptation. The project will provide critically-needed knowledge and tools for managing the trade-offs between built infrastructure and the ecosystem services provided by natural infrastructure.
Benefits from Natural Infrastructure
Infrastructure solutions for water security that incorporate both natural and built options are known to work. These can enhance efficiency, effectiveness and equity, but also spur implementation and progress towards long-term availability of water for all. From this, benefits then flow, for example: