This report is a product of Imperial College London


The headlines:

  • Involving local communities in monitoring water and land resources – so-called citizen science – can create new data and knowledge, improve conventional decision making and optimise water resource benefits.
  • The use of low-cost hydrological sensors in Nepal allowed local stakeholders to generate useful data on freshwater resources in partnership with scientists, and to apply this data more effectively in participatory decision making.
  • It is important to use the right mapping and modelling methods for ecosystem services (the benefits people obtain from ecosystems) so that information on service production, distribution and consumption is expressed at a spatial scale that is relevant to decision making. These methods are even more important in regions where limited data is available.
  • The integration of appropriate citizen science practices as well as mapping and modelling tools into water and land resourcesbased decision making could facilitate sustainable development activities, particularly in the Himalayan region.

Introduction:

Mountains are often referred to as ‘water towers’ as they provide fresh water to people in upland and downstream areas. Rivers originating from the Himalayas carry a vast wealth of water related benefits (also described as ecosystem services)that directly underpin local livelihoods and the wellbeing of societies in the region.

Freshwater is a very scarce resource in the Himalayan uplands. Agricultural practices depend on timely rain and snowfall in the upper mountains. The resulting water availability in local streams is crucial to maintaining local livelihoods. The region’s water supply is also highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change.

In the face of these water security challenges, it is important to ensure water is supplied to households in sufficient quantity and quality, as well as maintaining agricultural production and safeguarding habitats and the environment . These priorities are becoming even more important to the Himalayan region in the context of unprecedented land use and climate change impacts.

However, a significant shortage of useful data and information about these water systems has seriously undermined their sustainable use in the local area. As a result, changing hydrological cycle and climatic patterns may be poorly reflected in water and land resources management practices. In a highly uncertain and vulnerable environment such as the Himalayas, involving citizens in monitoring water resources, land use changes and resource management practices can create new knowledge that directly supports local decision making. The use of mapping and modelling tools at appropriate spatial and temporal scales is vital to understanding the current state of water and land resources as well as the future threats they face. In addition, vulnerability assessments can help target activities to improve resilience…”

Read on & access the report at Imperial College London.