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2012WWK-PPR-Water Uncertainties and Production Risks by Akhtar Ali

2012WWK-PPR-Water Uncertainties and Production Risks by Akhtar Ali

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Aug 27, 2012
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Eye  Asia 
Eye  Asia 
Food Water 
 Water Uncertainties and Production Risksin Asia
Akhtar Ali
, Asian Development Bank
A major challenge facing the agricultural production systems in Asia is that foodrequirement by 2050 will more than double its present level. Yet, land and waterresources are shrinking and downstream flows of many Asian rivers and volumes offreshwater lakes have been drastically reduced and some streams no longer reach thesea year-round (Ali, 2012). Water resources uncertainties (WRU) limit (i) our abilityto do accurate planning and design and optimal operation of water resources, (ii)continued performance of the agricultural production systems (APS), (iii) expansionof agricultural land, and (iv) achieving sustained increase in crop yield to meet futurefood demand in many areas. The WRU combined with biophysical and agro-climatefactors add risks to the agricultural production system. This paper reviews the mainWRU and the major corresponding APS risks. It also sheds some light on possibleoptions available to overcome these challenges.
 Water Resource Uncertainties and their Effects
The illusion of abundant water in nature is checked by the scale realities of too muchor too little or too polluted or too expensive to use. Human and ecosystems needs arenot matched by available freshwater resources because of their skewed distribution inspace and time. WRU occur because of (i) inherent randomness of physical processes,
 (ii) change drivers,
(iii) global warming and climate change, (iv) water assessmentand predictions complexities,
and (v) economic
factors. All these factors combinedpose challenges to accurately plan, design and operate the water resources systems(WRS).
The author is Senior Water Resources Specialist, at Central and West Asia Department of AsianDevelopment Bank (ADB) Manila, Philippines. This paper is prepared for presentation in Stockholm World Water Week(26–31 August 2012).
Precipitation, hydrological process, streams hydraulics, failure of major structures, soil-moisture distribution, weather and evapotranspiration all have elements of inherent randomness.
population growth, land use changes, urbanization and migration from rural to urban areas
data inadequacy and inaccuracy, gaps in analysis and design processes and spatial and temporal scales
Economic uncertainties are generated by construction costs, damage costs, projected revenue, operation andmaintenance costs, inflation, inconvenience losses, etc.
In Asia, ever-decreasing water availability per capita due to increasing population isthreatening regional water security. The Asian water resources face major challengesof changing temperature and its consequences to water availability, its use pattern andAPS. The change in temperature is also impacting evaporation, evapotranspiration,crops biology, and rainfall pattern (erratic and high variability) and is causing frequentextreme events (flood and drought, declining water quality and thus reducing useablewater quantity and groundwater regulation.Mays (2004) identified potential WRU as natural uncertainties, model structureuncertainties, model parameter uncertainties, data and informational uncertainties,and operational uncertainties.
Uncertainties due to scale issue i.e. scale of actualprocesses is very big as compared to scale of empirical evidences also limits ourcapacity to truly understand the WRS behavior on actual spatial and temporal scales.Some of the uncertainties and the consequently related risks in water resources areunavoidable; therefore, water resources planning, design and operation are generallysubject to a probability of failure in achieving their intended results. Precipitation,flood and drought are the main examples. Most of the uncertainties in WRS areindeterministic nature and are beyond our rigid control. A few examples hereunderbetter explain these uncertainties. 
1) Precipitation
Alam et al., (2007) indicated that increasing rainfall in summer monsoon months isexpected, along with a decline in winter rainfall, although the most notable pattern willbe greater variability from the historical regularity of the monsoon pattern. It is difficultto overemphasize the impacts of greater variability in a monsoon climate for areaswhere farmers have traditionally relied on highly predictable seasonal precipitationpatterns. IPCC (2007) and IPCC (2009) and Mani et al. (2009) noted significantuncertainties and uneven distribution of summer precipitation in South Asia andindicated that quantitative estimates of projected precipitation change are uncertainand “it is likely that some local climate changes will vary significantly from regionaltrends due to the region’s very complex topography and marine influences” 
2) River Systems Hydrology and Hydraulics
Hydrosystem analysis frequently involves quantities or parameters that subject to
The uncertainties are defined as, natural uncertainties: uncertainties due to inherent randomness of physical process,model structure uncertainties: inability of a simulation model or design procedures to represent precisely thesystem’s true physical behavior or process, model parameter uncertainties: variability in the determination of theparameters to be used in the model or design, data uncertainties: measurement inaccuracy and errors, inadequacy of the data gauging network, and data handling and transcription errors, and operational uncertainties are associatedwith construction, manufacture, deterioration, maintenance, and other human factors that are not accounted for in themodeling or design procedure.
various degrees of uncertainties. Soil conditions, topography and vegetation covergoverns the soil-moisture and the pre-rainfall soil-moisture conditions control therunoff. These all factors greatly vary in space and thus add uncertainties to the waterassessment within a river system. Hydrological frequency analysis and hydraulicequations with coefficients, such as “C” in weir equation to estimate spillway capacity,are a few examples of uncertainties involved in hydrologic and hydraulic analysis. Infact all major structures on rivers are involved with certain level of uncertainties in theirplanning, design and operation. Design flood for dams and barrages, sedimentationand changes in river morphologies are a few classical examples, where engineers usecertain factor of safety to minimize the impact of WRU. 
3) Extreme Events—Floods and Drought
Occurrence and severity of flood largely remain unpredictable despite availabilityof state-of-the-art technologies such as satellite imageries, remote sensing andforecasting models. Recent flood experiences in Asia demonstrated how unpredictableand damaging they can be. Heavy rains and tropical storms in 2011 affectedMekong River Basin countries damaging crops over 1.6 million ha in Thailand,420,337 hectares in Philippines, 332,634 hectares in Cambodia, 64,000 hectaresin Lao People’s Democratic Republic and 28,813 hectares in Viet Nam (FAO, 2011).Cyclones, typhoons and other tropical storms being inherited uncertainties affectedcostal areas people several times in Southeast and South Asia including Philippines,Vietnam and Bangladesh in the recent past.Drought is an extended period of deficient precipitation resulting in extensive damageto crops and loss of yield. It is sometime classified as meteorological drought (durationof dry period as compared with normal year), hydrological drought (unusually lesswater available in streams, rivers, reservoirs, lakes and shallow water aquifers),agricultural drought (deficit soil-moisture or significant difference between potentialand actual evapotranspiration). Being a perennially drought-prone region, South Asiais more vulnerable to drought. Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have reporteddroughts at least once in three years during last five decades, while Bangladesh andNepal suffered from frequent droughts. 
4) Water Quality
Both surface and groundwater quality is continuously deteriorating due to point andnon-point sources of pollution and saline- and sea-water intrusions. Spatial andtemporal variations in the pollution sources, transmission of pollution through runoffand drainage channels and difficulties in determining the saline and fresh watersinterfaces add uncertainties to predict the water quality changes. Declined waterquality directly affects the available freshwater quantity and causes land degradation.

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