Greening the Islands Foundation

The Canary Islands Institute of Technology Publishes a Methodological Guide for Islands to Assess Vulnerability in the Industrial Water Cycle

The latest IPCC’s assessment report (AR6) highlights the inevitability of certain climate change impacts, despite current ambitious mitigation efforts. Unfortunately, Islands will suffer these consequences more noticeably. As a result, adaptation to climate change becomes imperative and can significantly contribute to mitigating loss and damage, particularly in the scenario of a significant intensification of climatic conditions expected over the second half of the twenty-first century. In this context, the Canary Islands Institute of Technology (ITC) has launched the “Guide on Vulnerability Analysis in the Industrial Water Cycle”.

This guide, developed by the Water Department of the ITC, offers practical recommendations for local-level adaptation planning, using risk and vulnerability analysis as a fundamental tool. Targeted at local and regional authorities, the guide is based on experience gained from a case study in the municipality of Gáldar (Gran Canaria island), identifying vulnerabilities and risks in water infrastructure.

The guide outlines a series of steps, beginning with the analysis of regionalized climate projections to understand the actual climate threats in each study area. It then proceeds to examine potential impacts on water infrastructure within the study area, followed by a risk analysis based on the likelihood of impact occurrence and its consequences. Only risks with moderate or high likelihood are subjected to vulnerability analysis. Vulnerability analysis is determined by calculating predefined indicators of infrastructure sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity to potential impacts.

The results of these analyses reveal varying levels of vulnerability in different study areas, as well as the identification of current and potential critical points for intervention. For example, the application of the methodology in the case study of Gran Canaria island identified that the Guía-Gáldar Wastewater Treatment Plant (EDAR) presented a medium degree of vulnerability to increased peak flow periods resulting from adverse weather phenomena, increasing the risk of spills. In contrast, the Bocabarranco Desalination Plant (EDAM) is considered to be low vulnerability in the short term to increased demand but shows medium vulnerability in the long term under different climatic scenarios.

Low vulnerability indices are observed for sea level rise flooding in scenario 4.5, both short and long term, for permanent levels and for 5-year return periods. However, very high vulnerability indices are expected in the long term and for 100 and 500-year return periods in scenario 8.5. Additionally, the same scenario shows medium vulnerability in the short term for 5 and 100-year return periods, caused by floods or landslides affecting both the seawater intake and onshore infrastructure of the plant, including electrical equipment, pumps, and tanks, which could result in temporary water supply interruptions. This scenario also implies an increase in investment needs due to the possible increase in water demand.

On the island scale, carrying out vulnerability and risk analyses regarding the impacts of climate change on water infrastructure will allow the identification of specific threats such as rising sea levels and intensified tropical storms. This will help protect both the population and the infrastructure, as well as plan adaptation measures such as constructing resilient infrastructure, making informed decisions about allocating limited resources, and promoting community involvement to raise awareness and support for adaptation actions.

This guide has been developed in the frame of MAC-CLIMA project (acronym of Meteorological and Ocean Observation System as a Tool), led by the Gran Canaria’s Insular Energy Council, which aims to promote resilience and adaptation to climate change within the Macaronesia cooperation area. This initiative is funded by the INTERREG V-A Madeira-Azores-Canary Islands (MAC) Cooperation Programme, with the participation of the following third countries: Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritania. Its main objective is to establish an institutional, scientific and social framework among participating countries to effectively address climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Specifically, it seeks to facilitate the development of policies and measures aimed at protecting human populations, resources and infrastructure from the adverse impacts of natural disasters.

The project is focused on the critical vulnerability analysis and the implementation of corresponding adaptation and mitigation actions to respond to the unavoidable impacts in key areas and sectors within the cooperation area (Macaronesian Islands and neighbouring West African regions). To respond to these effects, the Guide is based on previous studies on climate change impacts on water infrastructure and urban water cycles, including vulnerability and risk analysis on the industrial water cycle infrastructure.

Instituto Tecnologico de Canarias

Instituto Tecnologico de Canarias

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