Water as a resilience multiplier: applying the water tracker in national climate plans

By Kelsey Harpham, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation

11 Dec 2022 by The Water Diplomat

The changing climate multiplies threats to our ecosystems, economies, and livelihoods. Let’s think about water as the resilience multiplier.

As countries make much-needed progress towards Paris Agreement commitments - while simultaneously adapting to the urgent impacts they are already facing due to climate change - national climate policies have the potential to serve as a strong foundation for coherent, effective climate action. The Water Tracker for National Climate Planning (wwww.watertracker.cc) was developed to ensure that national climate planning instruments, including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), are ambitious and meaningful. The Water Tracker is based on science to inform policy change, and promotes a shared definition of water resilience across, between, and within sector ministries to enhance coherence in climate action.

The Water Tracker is a simple questionnaire designed to draw out how and where water is embedded in climate planning instruments. It addresses the challenge of institutional fragmentation by working across sectors and agencies to comprehensively analyse water from multiple perspectives and facilitates strategic decision-making around the trade-offs inherent water management planning. 10 countries have applied the Water Tracker in 2022, and introductory conversations were held with a dozen more. Panama is just beginning work with the Water Tracker, but their team in the Ministry of Environment quickly realized the value that the results would bring by helping them to see how water “flowed” within their plans.

"Our NDC includes 10 sectors… one sector focused on water, but we didn’t envision to include water in the other sectors…[this] caught our curiosity when we were speaking with the experts on the Water Tracker, and we realized that of course water is included in everything – in public health, it is included in the energy sector, for the forest sector, the agricultural sector as well." - Nicole Francisco, Ministry of Environment, Panama

The application of the Water Tracker requires robust, multi-stakeholder conversations on the path to creating a shared understanding of water resilience. Water Tracker results are used to support revisions to climate, water, and development plans, and more importantly - to enable the effective implementation of climate action at the national, regional, and local levels. Costa Rica was the first country to complete the Water Tracker analysis in late 2021. The results were used to inform revisions of the National Adaptation Plan and National Water Resources Plan, and a plan developed to provide technical and capacity building support to the implementation of key actions included in those plans.

"[Costa Rica has] been able to work with the Water Tracker tool to enable us to make an assessment that will help us improve and align the different climate plans in Costa Rica and develop bankable, water-resilient projects, and support our Paris commitments". - Ms. Cynthia Barzuna Gutiérrez, Former Vice-Minister of Water and Oceans, Costa Rica

Water resilience is about building a shared vision of the future that facilitates economic and community resilience within the context of a changing climate. This kind of resilience requires a mix of inclusive, cross-sectoral governance, innovative water management solutions, and nuanced technical approaches. The Water Tracker supports a demand driven process for countries to leverage their work on climate plans to accelerate strategic adaptation action centered around water, leading to more effective outcomes on water security, economic development, and access to finance. In 2023, we are launching a new partnership allowing us to increase the depth of work in countries to facilitate the planning, prioritization, financing and implementation credible and effective climate actions. Water Tracker activities to date have been supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office of the United Kingdom, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, and Global Water Partnership, and implemented in collaboration with Sanitation and Water for All and UNICEF.

Link to UNFCCC Official Side Event at COP27: IPCC PCC AR6 conclusions on water security and launch of the Expanded Water Tracker for National Climate Planning