Climate change, water resources and WASH. A scoping study. ODI Working Paper 337


Water is predicted to be the primary medium through which early climate change impacts will be felt by people, ecosystems and economies. Both observational records and climate projections provide strong evidence that freshwater resources are vulnerable, and have the potential to be strongly impacted. However, impacts on water resources and water-dependent services have yet to be adequately addressed in either scientific analyses or water policy.

This report aims to fill in some of the gaps. No new research is presented; rather the aim is to pull together what we know about the links between climate change and water, drawing on both the scientific and non-scientific literature, for an informed but non-specialist audience. Commissioned by WaterAid in the UK, the report has two broad objectives:

  • To summarise current understanding of climate change projections and scenarios, and the impacts climate change may have on water resources, and water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia.
  • To discuss implications of the above for policy and practice at a range of different levels – from funding for climate change adaptation at an international level, to the planning and implementation of WASH interventions at a community level.

It is important to note the marked absence of literature on climate change and sanitation. As such, this report has largely focused on water resources and water supply. A key conclusion is that more research is required to better understand the impacts of climate change on existing sanitation systems and to identify effective responses to current and future climate change.

The report is intended for a broad range of decision-makers in government, the donor community, civil society organisations and the private sector.


Calow, R.; Bonsor, H.; Jones, L.; O’Meally, S. O.; MacDonald, A.; Kaur, N. Climate change, water resources and WASH. A scoping study. ODI Working Paper 337 ODI, London, UK/British Geological Survey, Nottingham, UK (2011) 58 pp. ISBN 978 1 907288 50 0

Published 1 January 2011