The United Nations Environment (UN Environment) and its partners, World Resources Institute, say global floods disrupt as much as US$96 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) each year.
It also says that with drought alone costs the agriculture industry alone US$6-8 billion annually.
To deal with flood and drought effectively, the UN Environment insists countries must be able to predict these risks – and to be adequately prepared for water shortages or surfeits as they occur.
“Building resilience and adapting to future challenges is essential to reducing both the human and the economic cost of climate change,” says Yegor Volovik of the UN Environment.
“This is especially important in transboundary settings, where water resources are shared between two or more countries. With access to the right data and information, governments and water authorities can plan together to overcome these challenges despite political and economic competition.”
Enabling this planning is a core objective of the Flood and Drought Management Tools project, a four-year, multi-million-dollar, Global Environment Facility-backed initiative to improve the ability of water utilities and catchment authorities to predict and plan for flood and drought impacts.
Led by UN Environment, in partnership with the International Water Association and DHI Water & Environment, the project works with 10 water authorities across six countries and three trans-boundary river basins to pilot a groundbreaking online system that provides near-real-time access to hydrographic, meteorological and demographic information.
The new Flood and Drought Portal aggregates and translates publicly available data from a range of sources, making it accessible to water authorities in a form they can use to support decisions at a local level.
“There are satellites that countries and regions like the United States and the European Union have put up that are collecting climate data – and that’s freely available for anyone, but not really accessible,” the International Water Association’s Katherine Cross says.
“This system processes that data and puts it into useable formats.”