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Case study: the Danube region
Sušnik, Andreja; Moderc, Andreja
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Number of pages
- Drought is becoming one of the major challenges in water management in countries of the Danube region (more frequent, more intense, no longer only associated with the summer months, various sectors under drought impact). In the last decades, droughts had large negative impacts on the economy and welfare of the people in the Danube region. In recent years such as 2003, 2007, 2012, 2015, 2017, significant parts of the Danube River Basin (DRB) were affected by drought, impacting various water-dependent economic sectors, vegetation and the aquatic environment. Drought risk is expected to increase in the future, especially over DRB’s south and east. Also, the frequency of drought events and low water levels in the region is expected to increase, especially in summer and in particular in the southeastern DRB.
- In practice, drought continues to be managed as a crisis situation by implementing emergency procedures and urgent measures. However, this approach usually fails to achieve the most sustainable solutions. In the existing legislation and policies, the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders including those of lead institutions are often unclear and/or overlapping with regard to the actions to be taken under specific drought conditions. The co-responsibility without a clear inter-institutional scheme of data, responsibility and communication flow results in neutralising the institutional response, especially before and during drought, instead of accelerating it. The existing crisis-oriented drought policies thus support the adoption of a crisis management (reactive) approach that activates institutions mostly when drought intensity is already alarming. In spite of this, there are some good practices existing in DRB that show how the state of inadequate drought policies can be changed by amending other existing policies that function well in practice, such as climate change or water management policies, with concrete drought-related topics.
- In the view of the changing nature of drought occurrence, also the far-reaching impacts of drought are very likely to increase across countries, communities, watersheds, economies and ecosystems in the Danube region. The water availability-demand ratio in a number of water-dependent sectors (such as hydropower generation, supply of water for domestic use, agriculture, industry, other economic uses, and for other activities such as fishing and winter tourism) is likely to become a serious problem in DRB in the future. This is likely to be further aggravated by interlocking a number of riparian countries relying on each other for their individual water security, while being politically, socially and economically very diverse and having high levels of socioeconomic disparities. While such negative effects can partly be reduced by water use efficiency gains (i.e. in the field of irrigation), these efficiency measures will not be sufficient to compensate for general increases in climate-induced water stress. In that view, the – often short – periods of water scarcity with competing demands of water from the various economic sectors together with ecological flow targets, will be the most challenging for water management in the Danube River Basin.
- In spite of this, there are some good practices and solutions existing in DRB for more proactively managing drought in DRB. There is a variety of ways at the national level that could be used to enhance the implementation of comprehensive drought management, among others the adoption of an Optimal Drought Management Model (ODMM), use of a monitoring and impact database & tools, strengthening the cooperation between stakeholders, sectoral experts and decision-makers, and enhancing drought topics in national legislation.
This case study is a contribution to the GAR Special Report on Drought 2021.
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