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Water and People: Assessing Policy Priorities for Climate Change Adaptation in the Mediterranean

Water is scarce in Mediterranean countries: cities are crowded with increasing demand; food is produced with large amounts of water; ecosystems demand more water than is often available; drought affects all. As climate change impacts become more noticeable and costlier, some current water management strategies will not be useful. According to the findings of CIRCE, the areas with limited water resources will increase in the coming decades (Parts 1 and 2) with major consequences for the way we produce food and we protect ecosystems (Part 3). Based on these projections this chapter discusses water policy priorities for climate change adaptation in the Mediterranean. We first summarize the main challenges to water resources in Mediterranean countries and outline the risks and opportunities for water under climate change based on previous studies. Recognizing the difficulty to go from precipitation to water policy, we then present a framework to evaluate water availability in response to natural and management conditions, with an example of application in the Ebro basin that exemplifies other Mediterranean areas. Then we evaluate adaptive capacity to understand the ability of Mediterranean countries to face, respond and recover from climate change impacts on water resources. Social and economic factors are key drivers of inequality in the adaptive capacity across the region. Based on the assessment of impacts and adaptive capacity we suggest thresholds for water policy to respond to climate change and link water scarcity indicators to relevant potential adaptation strategies. Our results suggest the need to further prioritize socially and economically sensitive policies.