Syndicate content

river basins

Bridging boundaries for climate adaptation financing with river basin organizations

Christina Leb's picture
Tourists and fishermen prepare to take their boats out on Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya.
Photo: Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank

Water, climate, and finance know no borders. This brings both challenges and opportunities. When it comes to freshwater, a majority of the world’s surface water flows in transboundary basins, spanning multiple federal states and countries. At the same time, most impacts from climate change are felt through the global water cycle and sub-cycles.  Thus, transboundary cooperation is crucial for strengthening climate resilience. And, when done appropriately, riparian countries and river basin organizations (RBOs) can harness their unique attributes to secure adaptation financing from a range of sources.

Transboundary Water Cooperation Helps Build Climate Resilience

Jacqueline Tront's picture
The World Bank at World Water Week 2015

Water does not respect geopolitical boundaries. Hydrological systems are completely oblivious of international relations. This makes life complicated for the water managers, financiers, diplomats, and most of all – the water users around the world’s approximately 276 transboundary river basins, 63 of which are in Africa. Sixty percent of the world’s freshwater flows are in transboundary rivers, and 40% of the world’s population lives in their river basins. When water cuts across borders, it poses economic, financial, logistical and political challenges for people trying to manage and develop the resource.​

Climate change is
The Zambezi River Basin in Africa is shared
by eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi,
Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia,
and Zimbabwe.
Photo Credit: CIWA / World Bank
increasing uncertainty about where and​ when water will​ be available. It is affecting billions of people living in transboundary basins, and as​ often happens, the poor are the hardest hit.​ There is a long list of potential problems people will face – supply in water-stressed regions will diminish; some regions are likely to have more water than they can handle; most challenging is the fact that​ the timing and amounts of future water availability are impossible to predict with certainty. Other risks - the increasing intensity of droughts, floods, typhoons, and monsoons; uncertainties around waterborne disease; glacier melt and decreased storage in snow-pack; glacial-lake outburst floods; sea-level rise and salt-water intrusion - all pose the highest risk to poor communities that are least able to cope.