Water Stewardship Information Sources

Citation Nelitz, M et al. 2013. Tools for climate change vulnerability assessments of watersheds. Prepared for Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment. PN 1494.
Organization CCME
URL http://www.ccme.ca/files/Resources/water/pn_1494_vat.pdf
Abstract/Description or Keywords It is expected that the impacts of climate change on Canada’s water resources will be significant.
Climate induced changes in precipitation and air temperature will lead to earlier timing of peak
flows, greater frequency of flooding, and more extreme drought conditions. Changes in climate
and the related impacts on terrestrial and freshwater environments will also affect nutrient
cycling, stream temperatures, the distribution, concentration, and timing of contaminants, as well
as the transport and concentrations of sediments in watercourses. Such changes are consequential
to human communities and freshwater ecosystems and as a result social-ecological systems in
Canada are “vulnerable” to the effects of climate change.
This compendium of tools was prepared for use by technical experts, adaptation planners and
resource managers to develop climate change vulnerability assessments of water quantity and
water quality at a watershed scale.
Drawing guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this
compendium defines vulnerability assessment as a process for assessing, measuring, and/or
characterizing the exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of watersheds to climate change.
The purpose of a vulnerability assessment is to generate knowledge that improves understanding
of the implications of climate change. The knowledge generated by a vulnerability assessment
can inform allocation of resources for climate change planning and adaptation.
The range of approaches available for assessing vulnerability include an “impact assessment”
(focusing on exposure to future climate and sensitivity of the system to that change), a “first
order vulnerability assessment” (focusing on exposure and sensitivity to both biophysical and
socio-economic impacts), and a “second order vulnerability assessment” (a first order
assessment that includes a consideration of adaptive capacity). These approaches represent “topdown”
methods of assessing local impacts on human communities and ecosystems. “Bottom-up”
or participatory approaches represent distinct though complementary approaches which draw
upon the perspectives and knowledge of communities to understand current and future
vulnerabilities. The selected approach will largely depend on the available knowledge, data,
technical abilities, and capacity (people, time, and money).
To identify tools relevant to the Canadian context, Canadian and international case studies of
watershed-scale vulnerability assessments were used. Tools were selected to be representative of
a broad range of water resource issues, data needs, and technical capabilities.
The tools in this compendium are varied and diverse. They range from indicator-based
approaches to sophisticated hydrological models that calculate exposure to flood events under
future projections of climate change. They also range from qualitative to quantitative approaches
that address a broad range of characteristics of social-ecological systems.
This compendium describes tools in a variety of ways. First, an “at a glance” overview
summarizes the full suite of tools that are described in more detail. For each tool, a summary is
provided describing the approach, inputs/outputs, user considerations, and citations where
readers can go for more information. Next, a framework for classifying tools according to the dimensions, components, and elements of vulnerability is also provided. The purpose of this
classification is to represent the full range of considerations and commonalities across all
vulnerability assessments and related tools. Lastly, more tools were identified than are described
here and as a result the reference list includes more citations than are referenced in the report so
it can be used as a searchable resource.
Information Type report
Regional Watershed Province
Sub-watershed if known
Aquifer #
Comments does not appear to explicitly address groundwater - focussed on surface water models
Project status complete
Contact Name Marc Nelitz
Contact Email [email protected]