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Impacts of climatic change on water and natural hazards in the Alps: Can current water governance cope with future challenges? Examples from the European “ACQWA” project

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Published in Environmental Science & Policy. 2011, vol. 14, no. 7, p. 734-743
Abstract This paper reviews the possible future situation of the Rhone River in the Swiss part of its catchment. Physical processes in the Alps govern the behaviour of the Rhone from its source (Rhone Glacier) to the Lake of Geneva, and substantial changes are expected to occur in the amount and seasonality of precipitation, and in the response of snow and glaciers to a warming climate. As a result, discharge in the alpine part of the Rhone River is likely to undergo an increase in winter and early spring, but strongly decreases from late spring to late autumn. These changes in water regimes will certainly be accompanied by more frequent geomorphic hazards, related to increases in heavy precipitation events and the melting of permanently frozen grounds. The direct and indirect impacts of a warming climate will affect key economic sectors such as tourism, hydropower, and agriculture, while shifts in extreme events will have an impact on the vulnerability of infrastructure and a range of economic sectors and services. Projections of the future course of events can help in advance planning and decision making in order to alleviate some of the more negative consequences of climate and hydrological impacts on key economic sectors in the region. This paper will thus discuss issues related to current and future water governance in the region, whether water-related policies are sufficiently robust today to cope with what may be rapid changes in water availability and water use in coming decades, and to resolve possible rivalries between economic sectors that may be increasingly confronted with problems of water availability at critical times of the year.
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Research groups ISE Pôle Sciences
ISE Climat
ISE Eau
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BENISTON, Martin, STOFFEL, Markus, HILL, Margot. Impacts of climatic change on water and natural hazards in the Alps: Can current water governance cope with future challenges? Examples from the European “ACQWA” project. In: Environmental Science & Policy, 2011, vol. 14, n° 7, p. 734-743. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:18471

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Deposited on : 2012-02-21

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