Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 35 Nos. 3

The Adaptation Deficit in Water Resource Management

Published on 1 July 2004

As human populations and material wealth expand, the demands upon limited water resources inevitably increase.

The adaptive response is to judiciously expand supplies where this can be achieved without further irreversible detriment to the resource and to manage water demand by more efficient and equitable use and by the modification of water management practices. Failure to do this at a fast enough rate is exacerbating water problems in all regions of the earth. The water resources of the earth are being used in an unsustainable way and the gap between sustainable use and present practice is the current “adaptation deficit”. This situation is getting worse with the advent of anthropogenic climate change, such that there is also a looming future adaptation deficit. This article describes some of the features of this deficit and presents perspectives from the science community, (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) and the negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It then offers a diagnosis of some of the major obstacles to reform in water resources management, within the Climate Convention and in the water management field, with some current Canadian examples. The article concludes with a few suggestions of how the adaptation deficit may addressed by improvements in the emerging adaptation regime (see also Pachauri, Denton, Huq and Reid and Agrawala, this Bulletin, for climate and water-related issues in developing countries).

Related Content

This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 35.3 (2004) The Adaptation Deficit in Water Resource Management

Cite this publication

Burton, I. and May, E. (2004) The Adaptation Deficit in Water Resource Management. IDS Bulletin 35(3): 31-37

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Ian Burton

Elizabeth May

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies