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Symposium 2009 «Water and Climate Change»

13/11/09

Global warming, which is the clearest sign of the new reality of climate change, intensifies the water cycle, as it leads to an increase in evaporation from a warmer surface. Water will play a crucial role in future climate and socioeconomic scenarios, as it is an essential resource and sometimes also a risk for people.

Variations in water resources in the coming decades due to global warming and new socioeconomic uses will lead to complex scenarios, in which water will be the link between many relations and, simultaneously, the subject of conflicts between the natural, social, economic, legal and political spheres at local and global scales.

The second UB Water Research Institute symposium brought together six experts who led an in-depth examination of various aspects of water and climate change.

Javier Martín-Vide
Symposium organizer


Interview with Javier Martín-Vide



Conclusions of the Water Research Institute Symposium:
Water and Climate Change

Global warming, which has brought about a significant increase in temperature in the last 30 years, has been shown to affect Spain and Catalonia in particular. It will increase the pressure on water systems and on their quality. The Centre for Hydrographic Studies (CEDEX) has applied water models, such as SIMPA, to future climate scenarios. The results show a reduction in water resources, with some regional variations. Specifically, the average runoff in Spain will decrease from 75 mm to 25 mm by the end of this century in a standard scenario. According to the Catalan Water Agency, the water service capacity in Catalonia could drop by 15%, from 495 hm3 to 420 hm3.

Paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental and paleolimnological studies that are focused on lacustrine sediment records enable us to reconstruct the climates of the past, in which natural variability is clear, particularly in the amount of solar radiation. In addition, the study of variations in the volume and surface area of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which are so far from the Mediterranean, enable us to deepen our knowledge of the climate system and of ocean dynamics. Both types of study serve to accurately assess the current, unequivocal climate change and to better define its causes.

One of the most serious technical and legal problems related to the issue of water in the new context of climate change is the fact that regional legal systems are used to address a global problem. This paradoxical situation makes it difficult to ensure and implement water rights (in laws and directives), particularly due to the range of laws in this area and the fact that water is not treated as one legal object. In addition, sector planning should be avoided, as it leads to legal conflicts and operational problems in overlapping areas.

Cities, which consume a large quantity of water but do not produce it, constitute one of the most difficult challenges in terms of water planning and management in the new environmental context. Bad use of water, which is partly due to its low cost, means that there is much room for improvement in the distribution, reuse and treatment of water in urban environments, and many activities that can be undertaken to achieve this.

Water and climate change are closely linked to the current energy model, in which renewable energies have great potential. However, their use instead of fossil fuels must take into account the financial costs, just as traditional energies must factor in environmental costs.

To conclude, Spanish water management systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to climate change. Interdisciplinary studies and analyses are essential to resolve this dynamic, complex problem in the best possible way, while respecting environmental values and ensuring human rights on water.

This second UB Water Research symposium was held in the Aula Magna of the UB Faculty of Law on 13 November 2009. There were 200 participants from different fields, although mainly from the academic world. Live video and audio recordings of all the sessions were broadcast on the Water Research Institute's webpage.

Javier Martín-Vide
Organizer of the Second Symposium
 

Date: 13 November 2009
Time: 9:30 am to 5:45 pm
Place: Aula Magna in the UB Faculty of Law
Av. Diagonal, 684
08034 Barcelona


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