Floods and droughts, water storage infrastructure, and sustainable development

V. Smakhtin

Water-related extremes – floods and droughts – are the primary “agents” of destruction and loss of human life. They kill, globally and annually, tens of thousands of people, account for about 90% of people affected by all natural disasters, and cause billion-dollar damages, comparable with aid flow from developed to developing countries. To cope with these extremes, improve overall water availability and produce energy, humans stored water in various forms for ages. Massive investments went into large surface water reservoirs that have become the characteristic feature of the earth’s landscapes, bringing both benefits and controversy. Storage-related indicators have essentially become a way of reflecting the progress of economic development. As the frequency, magnitude and unpredictability of floods and droughts progressively increase with changing climate globally, on one hand, and the idea of sustainable development has received strong traction, on another – the role of water storage infrastructure both grows and changes. The presentation will aim to critically examine the status, trends and prospects for water storage infrastructure development in the context of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It will look into issues of i) water storage planning as a portfolio of options; ii) likelihood of “storage revolutions” – speed increases in large dam numbers in regions; iii) possible impacts of ageing water storage infrastructure on water security of nations; iv) increasing role of subsurface storage and v) the role of nature based solutions (NBS) and ecosystem services in water storage development and management.