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Adaptation of drought and water conservation plans

The purpose of a drought management plan is to reduce risk and therefore economic, social, and environmental drought impacts. Water conservation plans aims to limit water consumption; to reduce loss and waste of water; to improve water use efficiency,  to document the level of recycling and reuse of water, to extend the life of current water supplies by reducing  water demand.

More efficiently using existing water supplies can diminish water demand, minimize environmental impacts and costs associated with developing new supplies. Drought and Water Conservation Plans include guidelines and requirements governing water conservation and drought contingency for public water suppliers but also through restrictions on water use, rationing schemes, special water tariffs or the reduction of low-value uses. DWCPs can become CCA measures to the extent they are able to include considerations regarding future climate change scenarios, with a specific focus on variability and extreme events. Moreover, as the social impact of drought is typically the manifestation of water scarcity problems, the adapted DWCPs should also consider the socio-economic dynamics, in order to consider how possibly reduced water availabilities and drought could exacerbate problems related to increasing water demand deriving from demographic and economic developments. Basic elements and contents of Drought and Water Conservation Plans (DWCP) are:

  • general basin characteristics under drought conditions;
  • the history of droughts in the river basin;
  • characteristics of droughts within the basin;
  • drought warning system implementation;
  • programme for preventing and mitigating droughts linked to indicator systems;
  • organisational structure of the DWCP (identification of competent entity, committee or working group to identify drought impacts and propose management);
  • update and follow-up of the DWCP;
  • public water supply specific plans;
  • prolonged drought management (where appropriate, a section should be dedicated to "prolonged drought" as required in article 4.6 of the Water Framework Directive).

Ideally, the DWCP should contain quantitative and measurable targets of water conservation and set of measures to achieve these targets, prioritised according to their performance and implementation costs.

Additional Details
Reference information

Adaptation Details



IPCC categories

Institutional: Government policies and programmes, Social: Behavioural

Stakeholder participation

Essential for a DWCP is the identification of relevant stakeholders having a stake in water supply, drought planning and water conservation. . These stakeholder groups must be involved and fairly representedin an early stage of the plan development. Participation in the planning process gives stakeholders an opportunity to develop an understanding of one another's various viewpoints, and to generate collaborative solutions.
Although the plans may (and should) be developed at various administrative (municipal, irrigation district, provincial, regional) levels and for different economic sectors, they should be connected to the river basin management plan.

At the national level, DWCP describe the normative framework, organisational structure and policy instruments (such as water abstraction licensing and pricing), drought emergency declaration procedures, high-level policy targets and available resources. The large scale water transfer projects are usually defined at this level. At the regional or river basin level, DWCP indicates regional drought triggers & indicators, drought risk and vulnerability, long‐term interventions for reducing drought vulnerability, drought risk mitigation options per sector and drought severity level, allocation of tasks among regional actors, criteria for developing drought management plans at the water supply system level, cooperation scheme with the civil protection agency, processes for plan review.

Success and Limiting Factors

Success factor is in-depth knowledge about:

  • the pattern of water uses and the contribution to welfare as well as
  • medium- to long-term projection of climate variability and – change, and
  • an understanding on drivers influencing water demand in the water-intensive economic sectors and public water consumption.

The limiting factor is the conflict between social, economic, and environmental values when water resources are more scarce. This may hamper collaboration during the planning and implementation process.

Costs and Benefits

The costs associated with the development of a state-level DWCP have been estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 euro. The benefit is that all economic sectors can continue activities in an organised way, but with reduced water levels, meaning that there is less economic and environmental disruption.

DWCP can be part of regional water protection programmes, based on regulatory and legislative tools. Legal constraints can include water rights, existing public trust laws, requirements for public water suppliers, and liability issues.

In order to address the issue of water scarcity and droughts in the EU, the European Commission (EC) issued a Communication ‘Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts in the European Union’ (2007). The communication did list a set of policy options, implementable as a concerted EU action to increase water efficiency and water savings and to improve drought preparedness and risk management. The European Union’s efforts in disaster risk reduction intensified with the EC Communication on Disaster Response Capacity (EC 2008). This Communication highlighted the need for stepping up the Community capacity and effectiveness to respond to disasters, within and outside the EU. To do so, the EC proposed several tangible means for a better coordination of various EU/Community policies, instruments, services and players (at national, European and international levels). The European Water Framework Directive (WFD), the flagship of the EU Water Policy recognised droughts as potential threats which may undo the efforts to achieve good ecological status of the Community water bodies. Yet drought mitigation is he last among the aims underpinned in the Article 1 of the Directive, and the one which is least substantiated. The 2012 review of the WFD is seen by many as an opportunity to increase emphasis on water scarcity and droughts.

Implementation Time

1-5 years

Life Time


Reference information


DG ENV project ClimWatAdapt, FP6 project ADAM mitigation and adaptation strategies, and DG CLIMA project Adaptation Strategy of European Cities

Published in Climate-ADAPT Aug 31 2016   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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