New Report: Ensuring Water Security in a Uncertain World

GRP Areas of work: Knowledge Policy Theme: Water

Wellspring, a new report authored by The Nature Conservancy, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) and the Global Resilience Partnership, highlights the importance of Source Water Protection for ensuring resilience and water security.


Nine in ten natural disasters are water related.

A problem is looming. Most water infrastructure isn’t designed to meet the demands of the increasingly volatile world that climate change is producing. Our modern landscape requires a reconceptualization of infrastructure’s demands and needs that often defies convention.

According to Wellspring: Source Water Resilience and Climate Adaptation, a new report from the Global Resilience Partnership, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation and The Nature Conservancy, nowhere is a flexible and responsive approach more crucial than in water infrastructure.

The report, introduced by Henk Ovink, UN Special Envoy International Water Affairs, analyses the failures of traditional water management to adapt to changing water flows and consumption needs. It demonstrates how Nature-based Solutions (NbS) and empowering women can help build water security and resilience in the face of a changing climate. By highlighting a number of practical and diverse resilient source water protection case studies – including a water fund in Mexico and degraded wetland restoration in Rwanda – the report outlines the linkages between source water protection, land use, healthy ecosystems, and climate adaptation. It concludes by offering robust and flexible approaches for resilient water management.

GRP’s Nate Matthews, one of the report authors, gives an overview of Wellspring’s key takeaways in his Wilson Centre blog article ‘Providing Water Security in an Uncertain World’.

Key Takeaways

  • A future shaped by climate change is one of uncertainty—and that’s a problem for traditional water infrastructure.
  • “Gray” infrastructure can become obsolete as environmental conditions change, while nature-based solutions are often more adaptive and resilient.
  • Investing in source-water protection and other nature-based solutions helps ensure water security for communities even as the climate and landscapes around them change.

Report Highlights

  • The Wellspring report is designed for those who are working in the fields of water resource management and natural resource conservation who want to consider new patterns of source water protection as a pathway to help sustain communities and ecosystems.
  • Source Waters at the Source: Ecological sustainability relies on the use of source water protection (SWP)—the collective term for strategies such as watershed restoration that seek to repair and reinstate the capacity of natural landscapes to provide clean and reliable freshwater. Such approaches already benefit millions of people around the world, from North America to Southeast Asia.
  • Work with Nature: Whilst current solutions mostly focus on building walls, dams, reservoirs and laying pipes, the Wellspring report emphasises investing in NbS with multiplier effects and broad benefits. Restoring watersheds and ensuring source waters remain healthy will become even more important as climate change reshapes the world around us. Whereas traditional engineering solutions become obsolete or fail in the face of changing landscapes and water flows, nature-based solutions adapt to those changes.
  • Women Build Resilience: The report highlights how women play a principal role in securing food and water supplies for their families and communities in developing countries. As central managers of natural resources, women have the knowledge and experience to build community resilience. Unfortunately, women commonly experience more social, cultural, economic, and political disadvantages, such as limited education opportunities and limited job prospects, that can result in higher mortality rates during floods


Download the report

Access the press release



Leaving no one behind: Building resilient water systems, Monday 26th August 2019, 16:00-17:30, World Water Week, Stockholm

The Global Resilience Partnership will convene with partners from SRC, SADC, GEF, USAID and IWMI to present lessons from the field on how to build resilient water and food systems. The event will explore the role of innovative technologies, tools and diverse partnerships in building food and water system resilience at the intersection of peace, stability and disaster risk reduction.


This article is adapted from Nathaniel Matthews blogs “Providing Water Security in an Uncertain World,” which originally ran on New Security Beat and Wellspring of Resilience: How Do We Provide Water Security in an Uncertain World? on

Photo Credit HJ Appleby, IMWI