Water scarcity, unsustainability, inter-sectoral conflict and water-related vulnerability of weaker sections are ubiquitous in the Indian sub-continent. Climate change is likely to aggravate pre-existing climate variability, thereby increasing water-related stresses, especially for marginalized groups. The process of rapid urbanization poses additional challenges to communities and water managers, as it brings increasing competition from a denser population and multiple sectors, separation of source from users and overlapping jurisdictions of multiple agencies.

"Adapting to Climate Change in Urbanizing Watersheds"(ACCUWa) is a 3-year interdisciplinary research study focusing on two rapidly urbanizing watersheds in south India: the Arkavathy sub-basin in Karnataka and the Noyyal sub-basin in Tamil Nadu. This study, supported by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada will seek to understand the manner in which impact of climate change on the quality and quantity of water accessible to different stakeholders, particularly weaker sections, and the household and governance factors that shape vulnerability, short-term coping mechanisms and possible adaptation strategies.

The larger goal is to build an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the interaction between the water resource ‘system’ and the climate system in an urbanizing context, and to build capacity of scholars, students, and civil society groups for conducting interdisciplinary actionable research. A review paper on approaches to understanding adaptation in water provisioning in developing countries has been published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

The research focuses attention on stakeholder priorities, seeking to integrate detailed biophysical understanding with an understanding of the socio-technical infrastructure and institutional mechanisms through which climate change impacts will be felt by water users. As a first step, situation analysis reports and expert consultations are carried out in each basin to summarize the current understanding of the ‘water-related problems’ in each basin are being compiled. The expert consultation on Arkavathy was held in November 2012 and the Arkavathy Situation Analysis was published in February 2013. The Noyyal expert consultation was held on 24th Sept 2013 and the Noyyal Situation Analysis was published in February 2014.

Detailed monitoring of both quantity and quality will be coupled with analysis of household, farmer and industrial water consumption behavior and the institutional aspects of water allocation and regulation. A web-based simulation model will be used in tandem with iterative stakeholder interactions to generate participatory learning of cumulative and cross-scale impacts.

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