High Mountain Asia (HMA) has the world’s largest ice and snow reserves outside the polar regions and is an important source of water for the major river systems in Asia, providing water for a population of more than a billion people. HMA has experienced many climatic changes which led to changes in the cryosphere and hydrological cycle. Past studies have focused on glaciers to derive the impact of either historical or future climate change on meltwater availability in basins in HMA. These basin-scale and regional studies use different data and approaches. Variability in approaches, data, and methods makes it difficult to align and compare the effects of climate change on future melt contribution and water availability across HMA. In this study, we bridge scale, variability in approaches, data, and methodological issues by implementing a consistent data and model. To robustly assess the 21st century climate change impact for hydrology in entire HMA at a wide range of scales, we use a high resolution cryospheric-hydrological model covering fifteen upstream HMA basins to quantify the compound effects of future changes in precipitation and temperature based on the range of climate change projections in the CMIP6 climate model ensemble.

Our analysis shows contrasting climate change responses across High Mountain Asia’s upstream river basins, dictated by the present-day variability in climate and hydrological regimes. At the large, river basin scale, the upstream basins of fifteen rivers in High Mountain Asia can be grouped into four hydrological regimes: glacial-nival, nival-pluvial, nival, and pluvial. Results show that an increased fraction of liquid precipitation due to climatic warming results in higher peak total runoff in all the basins. At the seasonal scale, the earlier onset of melting causes a shift in the magnitude and peak of water availability, to earlier in the year. At the decade to century scale, after an initial increase, the glacier melt declines by the mid or end of the century except for the Tarim river basin, where it continues to increase. Despite a large variability in hydrological regimes across HMA’s rivers, our results indicate relatively consistent climate change responses across HMA in terms of total water availability at decadal time scales.

The upstream mountainous basins of HMA analyzed in this study (grey boundaries). The green color represents the area above 2000 m. Shown are 1985–2014 mean seasonal cycles of discharge (Q, in mm yr-1) contributed by baseflow (red), snowmelt (orange), glacier melt (magenta), and rainfall-runoff (blue). Stacked bar plots aside show the average annual contributions of the discharge components (Q, 1st bar), the precipitation (P, 2nd bar) falling as rain (light purple) and snow (purple), the actual evapotranspiration (light green, 3rd bar), and sublimation (brown, 4th bar). The red triangles in the geographical map represent the station locations used for the calibration and validation of the hydrological model with observed discharge. The blue downward triangles represent the station locations where independent model validation with observed discharge is performed. Note the difference in vertical scale for each of the basins. Abbreviations: AMU, Amu Darya; BAL, Balkash; BRA, Brahmaputra; GAN, Ganges; HEL, Helmand; IND, Indus; IRR, Irrawaddy; MEK, Mekong; TP, Plateau of Tibet Interior; SAL, Salween; SYR, Syr Darya; TIE, Tarim interior east; TIW, Tarim interior west; YAN, Yangtze; Yellow, YEL.

Authors illustrates that the changes in total water availability are stronger in magnitude for the headwaters than at lower altitudes. It is the change in seasonality and changes in peak melt runoff that will pose the main challenge to be addressed in adapting to future changes in a region where food security, energy security as well as biodiversity, and the livelihoods of many depend on water from the mountains. These findings provide important information to support climate change adaptation policy planning in this climate change hotspot.

The study is gaining serious attention and highlighted by many regional and international organizations such as Mountain Hydrology, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Third Pole Environment. This work has been led by our employee Mr. Sonu Khanal under the PanTPE project. FutureWater has been working for the past 15 years in the region to address the issues related with water resources, cryosphere and climate change.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDCs) Global Programme Climate Change and Environment (GP CCE) India is supporting the operationalization of climate change adaptation actions in the mountain states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh through the phase two of the “Strengthening State Strategies for Climate Action” (3SCA) project that was launched in 2020. The second phase of 3SCA (2020-23), known as the Strengthening Climate Change Adaptation in Himalayas (SCA-Himalayas), while building on the experience and achievements of Phase 1, aims to showcase mountain ecosystem appropriate scalable approaches for climate resilience in water and disaster risk management sectors; using these efforts to enhance the capacities of the institutions across the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) to plan, implement and mainstream adaptation actions into their programmes and policy frameworks; and disseminating the experiences and lessons at the regional and global level.

Within this programme, SDC has granted a project to FutureWater, together with Utrecht University, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the University of Geneva and a few individual experts. The activities in this project focus on the development and application of climate responsive models and approaches for integrated water resources management (IWRM) for a selected glacier-fed sub-basin system in Uttarakhand and that at the same will find place in relevant policy frameworks paving way for their replication across IHR and other mountainous regions. This will allow the policy makers from the mountain states in India to manage the available water resources in an efficient and effective manner, benefiting the populations depending on these resources.

The combination of future climate change and socio-economic development poses great challenges for water security in areas depending on mountain water (Immerzeel et al., 2019). Climate change affects Asia’s high mountain water supply by its impact on the cryosphere. Changes in glacier ice storage, snow dynamics, evaporation rates lead to changes in runoff composition, overall water availability, seasonal shifts in hydrographs, and increases in extremely high and low flows (Huss and Hock, 2018; Lutz et al., 2014a). On the other and, downstream water demand in South Asia increases rapidly under population growth and increasing welfare boosting the demand for and electricity generation through hydropower. To address and adapt to these challenges integrated water resource management (IWRM) approaches and decision support systems (DSS) tailored to glacier- and snow-fed subbasins are required.

To fulfil the mandate outlined by SDC a framework is presented for IWRM and DSS for Himalayan subbasins consisting of three integrated platforms. (i) A modelling and decision support platform built around a multi-scale modelling framework for glacier and snow fed subbasins, based on state-of-the art and “easy to use” modelling technology. (ii) A stakeholder engagement platform to consult key stakeholders, identify key IWRM issues and co-design a new IWRM plan for Bhagirathi subbasin. (iii) A capacity building platform with on-site training and e-learning modules for the key project components: glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS, to ensure the sustainability of the approach and pave the way for upscaling to other subbasins in the Indian Himalayan Region.

The three platforms are designed designed to be flexible, integrated and interactive. Moreover they align with the three outcomes of the project, thus contributing to: develop and validate an integrated climate resilient water resource management approach (Outcome 1); increase technical and institutional capacity in the fields of hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS (Outcome 2); support the embedding of the IWRM approach tailored to glacier-fed Indian Himalayan subbasins in policies, and provide generic outputs and guidelines to facilitate upscaling to other subbasins in the Indian Himalayan Region (Outcome 3).

The modelling and decision support platform is designed for operation under the data scarce conditions faced in Himalayan catchments, and yields reliable outputs and projections. The modelling toolset covers the Bhagirathi watershed (Figure below) and consists of 3 hydrological models: (i) a high resolution glacio-hydrological model for the Dokriani glacier catchment (SPHY-Dokriani). Key parameters derived with this model are upscaled to (ii) a distributed glacio-hydrological model that covers the Bhagirathi subbasin (SPHYBhagirathi). Outputs of this model feed into (iii) a water allocation model that overlays the SPHY-Bhagirathi model in the downstream parts of the basin, where water demands are located (WEAPPODIUMSIM Bhagirathi). This modelling toolset is forced with downscaled climate change projections and socio-economic projections to simulate future changes in water supply and demand in the subbasin. On the basis of stakeholder inputs, adaptation options are identified and implemented in the water allocation model for scenario analysis. Thus, socio-economic projections and adaptation options are co-designed with the stakeholders to ensure maximum applicability, and are tailored to the requirements for formulation of the new IWRM plan. The outputs of the modelling toolset feed into the Decision Support System, where they are presented in such a way that they can truly support decision making in this subbasin. Results of the modelling, decision support and stakeholder engagement platforms jointly support the co-design of an IWRM plan for the subbasin. Capacity in glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and the use of DSS is built through a combination of on-site training and e-learning; replicable training modules are developed for glacio-hydrological modelling, IWRM and DSS in general and for this particular approach to support implementation and sustainability.

Overview of the Bhagirathi sub-basin. The inset on the right shows the Dokriani glacier watershed

 

The Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR) is one of the key government agencies in the field of integrated water resources management in Myanmar. DWIR consists, next to its national head offices, of twelve regional offices. Regional DWIR offices concentrate on flood protection by maintenance of the river and its embankments.

National-level DWIR staff attended previous trainings on Google Earth Engine (GEE) organized by FutureWater and HKV in Myanmar, during which GEE was identified as a particularly relevant tool to support DWIR’s mission. FutureWater and HKV have also successfully collaborated in a Partners for Water project focusing on operational rainfall monitoring. In particular, regional-level DWIR staff can benefit from using GEE for successfully complying with their mandate concerning design and practical implementation of riverbank and flood protection measures. They need to work with geospatial data on historical river morphology, flood extent, as well as hydrological baseline data on e.g. rainfall and evapotranspiration. With the overall capacity of the regional-level staff somewhat lower than the national level staff, this TMT aims to achieve a great leap forward by acquainting regional staff with geodata access, analyses and interpretation using GEE, to benefit the quality of flood protection measures and overall water safety in Myanmar.

The training is implemented by a mix of Dutch and Burmese trainers, who provide a program consisting of a month on-distance support, a two-and-a-halve-week in-country training followed by a period of 6 months of regular on-distance support. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, in-country training components are converted to an eLearning approach.

FutureWater, together with HKV and Yangon Technological University, have successfully organized a symposium on Advanced cloud computing for water resources management in Myanmar on 13th of December 2019. The symposium was organized under the framework of the Orange Knowledge Tailor-Made Training (TMT) Program, which is funded by NUFFIC, the Dutch organization for internationalization in education. The symposium was attended by participants from Yangon Technological University, Myanmar Maritime University, Government Organizations, Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department (IWUMD), Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems (DWIR) and Dutch embassy in Myanmar.

The symposium focused on the application of open source Google Earth Engine platform for management of floods, drought, erosion and sedimentation issues in Myanmar. It started with a keynote speech from Mr. Johan Heymans, a Water attaché for the Dutch Embassy in Myanmar. He highlighted in his speech the importance of Google Earth Engine for the water professionals in Myanmar. The keynote speech was followed by presentations from FutureWater and HKV, where we highlighted the interesting application of GEE in some of our projects. Finally, participants presented their stimulating findings and skills obtained during their previous trainings. The symposium was followed by a brief discussion on the use of GEE institutionally by the attending government and private institution. All the training documents and presentations are published on the repository of Myanmar Water Portal.

Participants of the symposium.

Myanmar is a country with huge water and agriculture-related challenges. However, ground data on e.g. river flows, rainfall and crop growth are only very sparsely available. This training supported by Nuffic aimed to build capacity across the water sector in Myanmar in overcoming these limitations by using Google Earth Engine, a state-of-the art tool for accessing and processing a wealth of geographical datasets. Participants from academia, higher education, and govenment agencies, attended two training sessions hosted by YTU (the main requesting organization) and implemented by FutureWater and HKV. During the intermediate period, remote support was offered to the participants via Skype, email and the dedicated Facebook page. Results of the individual assignments, which were formulated by the participants based on their personal objectives, were presented in a final symposium.

Higher educational staff was trained to achieve sustainable impact by implementing Google Earth Engine in their curricula and train a new generation of modern and well-equipped water professionals. Public sector representatives participated to obtain skills that can be directly and sustainably implemented in their respective organizations, to benefit effective and equitable water management.

Flooding has always been a major cause of natural disasters in a mountainous country like Nepal. Among the many natural disasters that affect Nepal, the recurring floods during the monsoon season have catastrophic consequences every year. Nepal’s fragile geological conditions and complex topography combined with frequently occurring extreme rainfall during the monsoon poses risks to communities living along the flood plains. In order to ensure good flood management practices and the development of long-term water management strategies a good understanding of key hydrological processes and the ability to simulate future changes in streamflow is a prerequisite.

During recent years, FutureWater has done many projects in collaboration with NGO’s, INGO’s and academic institutions in Nepal. This is the first time FutureWater collaborated with the Institute of Forestry (IOF), Nepal to provide their teaching faculty and researchers a training on “Use of open source platform for hydrological modelling of data sparse regions in Nepal”. The Tailor Made Training (TMT) was fully funded by NUFFIC’s Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) and took place from 8 April to 24 April 2019 in Pokhara, Nepal.

Essential skills, in particular modelling of hydrological processes are currently lacking at IOF, hampering the capacity to gain deep understanding of the present and future flood management situation in the region. Therewith IOF faces difficulties in developing long-term strategies to deal with climate change impacts for Nepal’s water resources. Further, the lack of ground-based measurements in the Himalayan region imposes an additional level of complexity while modelling the hydrological characteristics of this region. The use of readily available open source satellite-based data can augment the limited ground-based observation in the region.

Overall, the training fulfilled all the needs of the IOF, and was positively evaluated by the participants. This training program has encouraged the faculty members from IOF to use open source data and platforms in their future research and teaching.

The SREB is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, being a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. Essentially, the SREB includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. A major part of the SREB traverses Asia’s high-altitude areas, also referred to as the Third Pole or the Asian Water Tower. In the light of the planned development for the SREB traversing the Third Pole and its immediate surroundings, the “Pan-Third Pole Environment study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE)” program will be implemented.

The project will assess the state and fate of water resources in the region under following research themes:

1. Observed and projected Pan-TPE climate change
2. Impacts on the present and future Water Tower of Asia
3. The Green Silk Road and changes in water demand
4. Adaptation for green development

The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, being a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. Essentially, the SREB includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. A major part of the SREB traverses Asia’s high-altitude areas, also referred to as the Third Pole or the Asian Water Tower. Most hydrological research has focused on the southern parts of the mountain ranges (i.e. the river basins encompassing the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, whereas the northern and western domains of the Third Pole (i.e. the domains traversed by the planned SREB) form a research gap. The Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a multi-year research programme called Pan-Third Pole Environment (Pan-TPE), focusing on climate change on the Tibetan Plateau, its impacts, and the development of pathways to sustainable development.

FutureWater works together with Utrecht University and the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research to quantify climate change impacts for hydrology on the Third Pole.

Given the strong role of large-scale hydrology in the proposed research activities, the spatial domain of the activities encompasses the river basins of the Third Pole which are traversed by the SREB. The included SREB transects are the branch connecting Beijing to Central Asia via Xi’an and Urumqi, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting Southwest China to northern Pakistan. This means that the river basins of the Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Indus, and Yellow river are included, as well as the Tarim and Gobi interior basins. The research activities encompass the entire river basins, but particularly focus on the SREB transect.

The project involves a close collaboration with Chinese counterparts. To this end, a training program was conducted at Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Beijing (ITP) from 14th October to 18th October, 2019. This training was attended by nineteen researchers (3 female and 16 male) from ITP. The overall objective of this training was to train glacio-hydrological modeling with FutureWater’s Spatial Processes in Hydrology (SPHY) model, and transfer the knowledge regarding the Pan-TPE Water Tower hydrological model. The participants used the SPHY hydrological model to understand the changes in the glacio-hydrological regime of their own region of interest. The first days of the training were mainly dedicated to understanding of the basics of hydrological modelling using SPHY. The participants were encouraged to develop the SPHY model of their own interest area. The later part of training was dedicated to share and discuss the Water Tower model set up by FutureWater.

Overall, the training fulfilled all the needs of the project, and was positively evaluated by the participants. This training program has encouraged the researcher from ITP to use SPHY in their future research, and lead to further enhancement of the collaboration between Chinese and Dutch researchers. More information about the SPHY model as well as model documentation, tutorials and software downloads can be found on the SPHY website.

Below, you can find some pictures, taken during the training at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.

 

 

 

 

 

Flooding has always been a major cause of natural disasters in a mountainous country like Nepal. Among the many natural disasters that affect Nepal, the recurring floods during the monsoon season have catastrophic consequences every year. Nepal’s fragile geological conditions and complex topography combined with frequently occurring extreme rainfall during the monsoon poses risks to communities living along the flood plains. In order to ensure good flood management practices and the development of long-term water management strategies a good understanding of key hydrological processes and the ability to simulate future changes in streamflow is a prerequisite.

During recent years, FutureWater has done many projects in collaboration with NGO’s, INGO’s and academic institutions in Nepal. This is the first time FutureWater collaborated with the Institute of Forestry (IOF), Nepal to provide their teaching faculty and researchers a training on “Use of open source platform for hydrological modelling of data sparse region in Nepal”. The Tailor Made Training (TMT) was fully funded by  NUFFIC’s Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) and took place from 8 April to 24 April 2019 in Pokhara, Nepal.

Essential skills, in particular modelling of hydrological processes are currently lacking at IOF, hampering the capacity to gain deep understanding of the present and future flood management situation in the region. Therewith IOF faces difficulties in developing long-term strategies to deal with climate change impacts for Nepal’s water resources. Further, the lack of ground-based measurements in the Himalayan region imposes an additional level of complexity while modelling the hydrological characteristics of this region. The use of readily available open source satellite-based data can augment the limited ground-based observation in the region.

The training group consisted of sixteen researchers.

This training was attended by sixteen researchers (seven female and nine male) from IOF, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Central Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (CDHM), Department of Forests and Soil Conservation and the Institute of Engineering (IOE). The overall objective of this training was to ensure the use of open source data in the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform for to assess the hydrological regime of data sparse regions in Nepal. The participants used freely available geospatial images to make a land use map of their region of interest using the GEE platform. Further, they used these land use maps to understand the changes the hydrological regime of their region using the SPHY hydrological model, developed by FutureWater. The SPHY model can be applied by a wider range of experts with basic hydrological and computer skills, through user interfaces, including a data preprocessing tool.

The training class in Pokhara, Nepal.

Moreover, the participants were able to extract and process the projected future precipitation and temperature data using KNMI Climate Explorer. Participants used the delta change method to create the future climate change scenarios. They were able to use the future projected climate data with SPHY model to assess the climate change impacts on the hydrological regime for their region of interest

Overall, the training fulfilled all the needs of the IOF, and was positively evaluated by the participants. This training program has encouraged the faculty members from IOF to use open source data and platforms in their future research and teaching .More information about the SPHY model as well as model documentation, tutorials and software downloads can be found on the SPHY website.

The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is highly dynamic as there are many socio-economic and environmental drivers at play, including climate change. The impacts of these changes challenge the resilience of natural and human capacities and environments in the region. Recent studies have shown that the Himalayan region and the downstream areas that depend on its water supply and ecosystem services are particularly vulnerable to climate change. To study the contributing roles of snow, glaciers, precipitation and groundwater to the total water resources, and how these roles might change in the future, a hydrological model is required that includes cryosphere and mountain hydrology.

FutureWater collaborated during recent years with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in developing the Spatial Processes in Hydrology (SPHY) model, which is available in the public domain. ICIMOD intends to make this model accessible to its partner institutions in the region and for this in collaboration with FutureWater, a user friendly interface and training modules have been developed. The first and second successful training course was provided to regional experts in December 2014 and December 2015 at ICIMOD in Kathmandu, Nepal. Now in May, 2017 taking the subject further, including newly developed interface components which were developed in response to possible improvements pointed out by the users.

The overall objective of this training was to ensure that SPHY can be applied by a wider range of experts with basic hydrological and computer skills, by further developing the user interfaces, including a data preprocessing tool. The user-interface now allows changing model input parameters and maps, select model output to be reported, run the model, and analyse the model output. The newly developed preprocessing tool allows users to setup their own models easily by selecting a rectangular model extent and spatial resolution after which the software preprocesses input data from a predefined database and the SPHY model is ready to run. The newly developed interfaces come with manuals of the underlying theory and hands-on training case studies.

This training was attended by twenty water professionals (seventeen males and three females) from Afghanistan (Eshraq Institute of Higher Education, Ministry of Energy and Water and Kabul University); Bangladesh (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology); Bhutan(National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology and Sherubtse college); China (Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences); India (National Institute of Hydrology and The energy and Resources Institute); Nepal (Department of Hydrology and Meteorology and Kathmandu University); Pakistan (Pakistan Council of Research on Water resources and Water and Power Development Authority) and ICIMOD staff.

More information about the SPHY model as well as model documentation, tutorials and software downloads can be found on the SPHY website.