Extreme weather events: the importance of partnerships and the role of local governments

Climate Change – The responsibility of local governments and the relevance of partnerships

Droughts and floods have become more common as a result of climate change, and some of these phenomena have become recurrent or even chronic. Extreme events know no bounds, necessitating a global strategy with local responses.

Whether it is entirely due to human action or because the climate has gone through various phases and cycles over the past 4.5 billion years and is now entering a warm and dry period that will last at least until the year 2300, the natural and extraordinary phenomena of droughts and floods will be repeated much more frequently in the coming years than has been normal in recent years.

A report on the global drought situation has just been released by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) (Special Report on Drought 2021). In the face of this extraordinary and natural phenomena, it underscores the need for all institutions with responsibilities in environmental matters in general, and water in particular, to build coalitions.

Demand management and forecasting

As the 4th Water Dialogue, held by the Water Economy Forum, shown, planning is critical in the management of extreme weather events, as it is in other land management challenges. Droughts and floods are two sides of the same coin, and both necessitate a two-pronged response: prevention and response. The preventative trend should dominate whenever practicable, necessitating the inclusion of these occurrences in water and land-use planning.

In terms of water management, global warming necessitates a paradigm shift that is currently underway in certain regions: demand-based management. It is preferable to base management on demand, which must be tailored to the available resources rather than the other way around, especially when dealing with drought and, above all, water scarcity.

Science, technique, and technology will play a critical role in current and future water management, particularly in predicting and preventing extreme climatic events and making the most of available resources through water reuse.

On the supply side, water reuse and the limited use of first-use resources for basic activities will define the future of water management, thanks to already-existing technologies that allow water to be reused for industrial, agri-food, and recreational purposes. Science, technique, and technology will play a critical role in current and future water management, particularly in predicting and preventing extreme climatic events and making the most of available resources through water reuse.

The role of municipal government

Drought can only be addressed at the administrative level if all public administrations, each in its own domain of competence, as well as civil society, are involved. It is vital to have suitable avenues of involvement and sufficient knowledge for the latter to perform its proper role.

On the basis of the assumption “think globally, act locally,” it is worthwhile to examine the role of local governments in the prevention of extreme events, particularly droughts. The measures that the territorially superior Public Administrations, the State, and the Autonomous Communities can take in the Spanish legal system are well known. The crucial role that the legal system has designated for the Local Administration to contribute to the battle and adoption of measures against this phenomenon has received less attention.

Extreme weather events are a problem for everyone, but particularly for government agencies and institutions with responsibility in this area.

Extreme weather events are a problem for everyone, but particularly for government agencies and institutions with responsibility in this area. As a result, they pose a challenge to local government, which is the last territorial level of our institutional architecture.

The National Hydrological Plan Law 10/2001, enacted on July 5, 2001, contains a measure that has gone largely ignored but that, if manifested and implemented appropriately, might be a highly intriguing instrument for dealing with problems such as those that arise in extreme droughts.

The law in question specifies that public administrations in charge of urban supply systems serving a population of 20,000 or more people must have a drought emergency plan in place. This measure makes it necessary to “predict in time” the onset of the drought and to plan measures to ensure, above all, the provision of such a fundamental and important service as drinking water.

Furthermore, the measure necessitates collaboration between several public administrations, in this case, the basin organizations or the related hydraulic administration with the local administration. The requirement for alliances for water management and extreme phenomena, as I said earlier, is thus legally supported.

Logically, this is a tool that is used in conjunction with the rest of the instruments provided by Spanish water legislation, both for reaction and planning, to deal with the consequences of drought situations, though in this case to mitigate the effects on a specific and concrete use of water, the urban supply.

Although there is no doubt that local entities have responsibility for the supply of drinking water, and that this formula is appropriate due to the need for proximity and adaptation to consumers, we should not overlook the importance of following common policies, measures, and rules across the country. Furthermore, good water management necessitates cooperation that extends beyond the national level to the international level and the European Union.

There are numerous drought-related activities at the international, European, and national regulatory levels. The United Nations has a special treaty on desertification caused by drought that dates from 1994 and was adopted in Spain in 1996. At the European Union level, there is a defined policy in favor of water resource protection, while at the national level, Spain’s geographical peculiarities have led to the adoption of numerous legislative and institutional measures for a long time.

Public awareness is important.

Climate change is having irreversible impacts, as the 4th Report of the Water Conversatories indicates, and it is vital to adapt from several perspectives: political, legal, technological, and urban planning. As we’ve seen, this new circumstance necessitates a shift in water management based on demand, which necessitates proper public knowledge.

The establishment of lines of action is the responsibility of public institutions, but in the end, individual and collective knowledge as a community will make the greatest progress.

Any environmental issue, particularly one involving water, entails a significant amount of personal and social responsibility. Public institutions are in charge of defining action plans, but individual and collective knowledge as a community will ultimately determine how far we progress. Since a result, the educational component is critical, as it will be difficult to pass on the importance of water to future generations without a sufficient education in its values.

 

Article Author Gerluxe Image: Edie Lush