Water resources around the globe are under increasing stress. Among other factors, climate change, rising food and energy demand, and improving living standards have led to a six-fold increase in global water withdrawals over the last century, with significant consequences for water quality and availability, ecosystem health, biodiversity, as well as social stability.

By advancing and linking water system models with models from sectors such as agriculture and energy, biodiversity, or sediment transport, the SOS-Water Project aims to lay the foundations for a holistic assessment framework of water resources across spatial scales. Based on five case studies of river basins in Europe and Vietnam – the Jucar River Basin in Spain, the Upper Danube region, the Danube and Rhine River deltas, and the Mekong River Basin – an interdisciplinary team of researchers from ten institutions across eight countries will develop a multidimensional SOS for water. The framework will enable the assessment of feedback loops and trade-offs between different dimensions of the water system and help address pressing global, regional, and local challenges.

In addition to going beyond state-of-the-art water systems modeling, the project will develop a comprehensive set of indicators to assess and monitor the environmental, social, and economic performance of water systems. The participating researchers will collaborate with regional and local authorities, water user representatives, non-governmental organizations, and citizens to co-create future scenarios and water management pathways. By streamlining water planning at different levels, it can be ensured that water allocation among societies, economies, and ecosystems will be economically efficient, socially fair, and resilient to shocks.

In partnership with project lead IIASA and partners such as Utrecht University and EAWAG, FutureWater is responsible for several tasks under the work package that looks to improve upon existing Earth Observation technologies for monitoring the performance of water systems. New applications will be developed and tested in the context of the SOS-Water case study basins of the Mekong and Jucar rivers.

The Mekong River and its tributaries are critical waterways that support the economy and food supply chains of both Cambodia and Lao PDR. However, these waterways also present a significant risk. Flooding and drought events are becoming increasingly erratic, longer, and more intense as a result of the compounding effects of anthropogenic climate change. In support of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in the Mekong River basin, appropriate data collection, integrated management of data and proper analysis are crucial as a basis for decision-making and policy development. There have been numerous efforts in data collection, analysis, and monitoring by relevant key stakeholders such as MRC, MoWRAM, NCDM and other development partners. Those systems have been developed to track climate information, provide basic data for risk-informed technical planning at the national and local level. However, data availability and the ability to contextualize information at local level remain a big challenge for Cambodia, which leads to the persistence of misinformation and misunderstanding of risks associated with living near the Mekong River and its tributaries.

In 2021, UNDP received funding from Ministry of Environment the Government of Republic of Korea for the project “Enhancing Integrated Water Management and Climate Resilience in Vulnerable Urban Areas of the Mekong River Basin”. This project looks to address gaps in data collection management and analysis, enhance institutional and technical capacity at the subnational level for integrated climate and flood risk management, enhance availability of resources for investment in water-related risk reduction, and aid the flow of risk knowledge and coordination across the borders of Cambodia and Lao PDR. Key outputs include (i) technical studies on flood propagation models, hydrometeorological disasters forecasting models, capacity assessment, and improvement of risk monitoring systems and early warning system (EWS), (ii) capacity building design for climate change risk assessments, and hazard/vulnerability mapping using open source software, and (iii) design and piloting of disaster risk management initiatives at the community level.

FutureWater was hired by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Cambodia to provide strategic and technical support to the successful delivery of Mekong urban resilience project on its current and further initiatives to promote climate risk informed integrated water resource management in the target 3S and 4P river basins in Cambodia. This includes a close collaboration with the project team to design project intervention strategies through building alignment with existing efforts and ensuringe that the project is part of a bigger system of disaster risks informed water resources management in the target river basins.

Starting on the 1st of October, 2022, the SOS-Water Project, funded under the Horizon Europe scheme, will create a holistic and participatory assessment framework of a Safe Operating Space (SOS) for the entire water resources system to inform global and regional water management policies and pathways. 

Water resources around the globe are under increasing stress. Among other factors, climate change, rising food and energy demand, and improving living standards have led to a six-fold increase in global water withdrawals over the last century, with significant consequences for water quality and availability, ecosystem health, biodiversity, as well as social stability.

The SOS-Water Project endeavours to set out the boundaries within which the Earth’s capacity to provide life-support systems for humanity is not endangered, and humanity’s capacity to adapt to environmental changes is not overburdened. Crossing such thresholds or tipping points in the complex Earth system could result in abrupt and irreversible ecological change. To safeguard a reliable and sufficient water supply for humans and ecosystems in the future, it is therefore essential to define an SOS for global water resources under changing conditions.

By advancing and linking water system models with models from sectors such as agriculture and energy, biodiversity, or sediment transport, the SOS-Water Project aims to lay the foundations for a holistic assessment framework of water resources across spatial scales. Based on five case studies of river basins in Europe and Vietnam – the Jucar River Basin in Spain, the Upper Danube region, the Danube and Rhine River deltas, and the Mekong River Basin – an interdisciplinary team of researchers from ten institutions across eight countries will develop a multidimensional SOS for water. The framework will enable the assessment of feedback loops and trade-offs between different dimensions of the water system and help address pressing global, regional, and local challenges.

In addition to going beyond state-of-the-art water systems modeling, the project will develop a comprehensive set of indicators to assess and monitor the environmental, social, and economic performance of water systems. The participating researchers will collaborate with regional and local authorities, water user representatives, non-governmental organizations, and citizens to co-create future scenarios and water management pathways. By streamlining water planning at different levels, it can be ensured that water allocation among societies, economies, and ecosystems will be economically efficient, socially fair, and resilient to shocks.

In partnership with project lead IIASA and partners such as Utrecht University and EAWAG, FutureWater is responsible for several tasks under the work package that looks to improve upon existing Earth Observation technologies for monitoring the performance of water systems. New applications will be developed and tested in the context of the SOS-Water case study basins of the Mekong and Jucar rivers. Initial ideas will be presented and discussed with the consortium during the project kickoff meeting on October 19 – 20 in Laxenburg, Austria.

This news item is a slightly modified version of the article published by SOS-Water lead organization IIASA.

To facilitate the needs of ZIPAK, this training aims to build data-driven capacities relevant to sustainable nature conservation practices and ecosystem-based natural resources management in Iran:

  • Leveraging the Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP) for performing climate risk and vulnerability assessments
  • Leveraging the online dashboard Earth Map for environmental hazard mapping and socio-economic risk assessments
  • Applying the InVest model (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) for assessing ecosystem service provision

The training focuses on knowledge and skills development and how how to meaningfully integrate these capabilities into ZIPAK’s objectives on sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.

Over the past year, FutureWater has supported Mekong River Commission (MRC) by developing and implementing a set of satellite remote sensing-based methodologies for evaluating the extent of Salinity Intrusion in the Mekong Delta (SIM), as well as the conditions of Riverine, Estuarine and Coastal Habitats (RECH) in the Lower Mekong Basin. The developed methods rely on the use of various open-source datasets as well as Google Earth Engine technology, and play an important role in the data collection for the upcoming MRC Mekong State Of the Basin Report (SOBR) 2023.

Last week, a four-day regional training was organized by MRC in Bangkok, Thailand, with the overall aim of strengthening the common understanding and capacity of the relevant national line agencies of the MRC Member Countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam) regarding these novel methodologies for data collection. Regarding the RECH and SIM, Gijs Simons of FutureWater informed the national line agencies of the developed methodologies and their strengths and limitations, presented the draft results for SOBR 2023, and supported the technical staff in obtaining initial hands-on experience with the corresponding data and tools.

The new methodologies were overall well-received as important new tools for evaluation of spatial patterns and temporal dynamics of SIM and RECH monitoring parameters, especially since they allow for cost-effective, consistent and sustainable monitoring as part of the MRC monitoring cycle. A phased approach will be implemented over the coming years to further validate and improve upon the developed methods.

Participants during training sessions

Job description

32/40 hours per week, location Wageningen, The Netherlands, starting date TBD

FutureWater is looking for an experienced agricultural water expert for our expanding international activities, particularly in Asia and Africa, who has affinity with technical tasks but also appetite for leading and coordinating some of the projects. At FutureWater you work in a dynamic organization, independently or in a team, on both organizational and technical aspects of challenging projects at the interface of water management, agriculture, nature-based solutions, and climate change. The following tasks and responsibilities are associated with the position:

  • Lead analytical work in projects on the interface of water resources and agriculture
  • Provide technical support and guidance within the team around these topics
  • Work directly with clients to ensure project scope and expectations are well-aligned, and deliverables fall within the applicable scope and budget
  • Project planning and coordination of budget and resources, and communication and cooperation with partner organizations (private sector, NGO, universities)
  • Collaborate on or lead project proposals and have affinity with project acquisition

It is expected that about half of the work will consist of technical contribution to projects (data analysis, modeling, interpretation of results, reporting), and half of the time to the other tasks and responsibilities listed here.

Job requirements

The ideal candidate has an academic background in agro-hydrology, irrigation, or agricultural water management, followed by at least 5 years of progressively autonomous, professional experience.

Further requirements include:

  • Proven planning and organizational skills
  • Demonstrable experience with contact with clients, ideally demonstrated by successful completion of multiple international projects
  • An existing network of relevant public and private organizations, in The Netherlands and/or abroad
  • Experience with crop water modeling or similar (e.g. AquaCrop or CROPWAT)
  • Affinity with programming (e.g. Python, R) is appreciated
  • Affinity with climate smart or precision agriculture
  • Fluent in English (required) and Dutch (preferred)
  • Valid permission to work in The Netherlands (already obtained)

In the event of proven suitability, there is the possibility of a permanent employment contract.

Organization

FutureWater is a research and consultancy company with the objective of contributing to the sustainable management of water, worldwide. FutureWater focuses on the application and development of scientific methods and concepts to provide advice and solutions in the field of water management. Simulation models, Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, innovative data processing techniques and training play a key role in this. Activities take place in the Netherlands and abroad. Typical clients include World Bank, Asian Development Bank, NGOs, river basin organizations, national and regional governments, and research organization.

More information or apply?

Interested? Apply through LinkedIn.

This vacancy is open until 12 September 2022.

In May 2022, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) organized its fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, with the aim to unite governments, scientists, policymakers, the private sector and communities around a shared vision to restore and manage the world’s land.

To demonstrate the need for national governments and producers to assess and understand the risk profiles of their main agricultural value chains, UNCCD commissioned FutureWater to identify land degradation and climate change hotspots in drylands across the globe and explore the likely impacts of climate change on degradation of the key cropping systems in these areas. The resulting report served as a knowledge product in support of COP15.

The final report is now available for the general public through this link. By zooming in on three case studies across the globe and innovatively integrating remote sensing and climate model outputs, the study highlights the close interconnection between climate change and landdegradation in dryland agriculture. The results should support national governments to evaluate the risk profiles of their main cash crops and, subsequently, support identification of alternatives for value chains that are projected to become insufficiently productive in the future. Subsequent work will link towards opportunities around other megatrends such as population changes, consumption patterns, energy and shifting geopolitical patterns present in the identification of new value chains.

Agriculture is the most water demanding and consuming sector, globally responsible for most of the human induced water withdrawals. This abstraction of water is a critical input for agricultural production and plays an important role in food security as irrigated agriculture represents about 20 percent of the total cultivated land while contributing by 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.

The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-RAP) is concerned about this increase in water use over the last decades that has led to water scarcity in many countries. This trend will continue as the gap between water demand and supply is projected to widen due to factors such as population growth and economic development, and environmental factors such as land degradation and climate change.

Unfortunately, solutions to overcome the current and future water crisis by looking at the agricultural sector are not simple and have often led to unrealistic expectations. Misconceptions and overly simplistic (and often erroneous) views have been flagged and described over the last recent decades. However, uptake of those new insights by decision makers and the irrigation sector itself has been limited.

The “Follow the Water” project will develop a Guidance Document that summarizes those aspects and, more importantly, quantifies the return flows that occurs in irrigated systems. Those return flows are collected from a wide range of experiments and are collected in a database to be used as reference for new and/or rehabilitation irrigation projects.

The FAO/FutureWater project will also develop a simple-to-use tool to track water in irrigated systems using so-called “virtual tracers”. The tool will respond to the demand for a better understanding the role of reuse of water in irrigated agriculture systems. An extensive training package, based on the Guidance and the Tool, is developed as well.

FAO plays an essential role in backstopping the development of the Guidance and the Tool and promoting. FutureWater takes the lead in development of the Guidance, the Tool and the training package. With this, FAO and FutureWater will contribute to a sustainable future of our water resources.

Recently, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has published a How-to Guide to Develop Watershed Investment Programs, accessible here. This important resource was designed to meet the needs of practitioners and investors across a variety of sectors who may wish to improve biodiversity, climate and water security outcomes by employing nature-based solutions. It comprises several components, including a set of Deep Dives which offer detailed guidance on key subject matter areas for WIP preparation.

FutureWater has contributed to the How-to Guide by providing input to several sections, most notably by developing the Deep Dive containing eleven NbS Options Factsheets. These factsheets outline the typical properties of each NbS option including the water security challenges addressed, additional co-benefits, typical cost profiles, and risks. The factsheets were compiled by exploring a range of information sources, including technical reports, policy documents, operational protocols and guidelines for NbS implementation, and academic literature.

More information about the overall project can be found here.

UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. As some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, UNCCD especially addresses these drylands. Productive capacities in drylands are threatened by megatrends such as climate change and land degradation, where changing precipitation and temperature potentially exacerbate processes of degradation and where degraded lands make productive systems more vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

UNCCD therefore aims to support the reorientation of productive capacities towards sustainable and resilient patterns, in order to reverse the impact of land degradation and mitigate climate change impact. To this end, UNCCD is interested in the identification of regions and crops at a particularly high risk of land degradation and climate change impact. The outcomes of this activity should support informing of national governments of risk profiles of their main cash crops and, subsequently, support identification of alternatives for value chains that are projected to become insufficiently productive in the future.

Subsequent work will link towards opportunities around other megatrends such as population changes, consumption patterns, energy and shifting geopolitical patterns present in the identification of new value chains.