Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can help ensure the long-term reliability of water resources. Research has shown they can – depending on circumstance – be more cost-effective and longer-lasting than grey infrastructure, while generating multiple co-benefits for carbon, biodiversity and human health. Despite the promise of NbS, however, water sector actors and their financiers usually prioritize investments in traditional grey infrastructure because they are more familiar with its costs, benefits and returns. Most of them are unfamiliar with how to develop and assess the value of NbS projects, though research shows they’re interested in tapping into their multi-faceted benefits.

The Financing Nature for Water Security project of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) aims to produce and disseminate guidance that enables water sector actors (government agencies, water utilities, grass-root NGOs) and their funders (donors, development banks and private investors) to invest in NbS-WS, at scale, by mobilizing sustainable funding and repayable financing. The project comprises of technical modules, guidance documents, supporting databases and training materials.

FutureWater has been contracted by TNC to support the development of one of the content modules assembled under the project. The module “Technical Options” will help the reader understand the water security challenge(s) they are confronted with and identify the types of NbS that could help address those challenges. In particular, Futurewater works on the creation of 12 technical factsheets to be included in an annex to the main documentation, with each factsheet highlighting the key technical aspects, benefits and risks, and economic dimensions of an NbS. In addition, an inventory of relevant NbS databases, platforms, and references is delivered.

Scientists from around the world have assessed the planet’s 78 mountain glacier–based water systems and, for the first time, ranked them in order of their importance to adjacent lowland communities, as well as their vulnerability to future environmental and socioeconomic changes. These systems, known as mountain water towers, store and transport water via glaciers, snow packs, lakes and streams, thereby supplying invaluable water resources to 1.9 billion people globally—roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

The research, published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, provides evidence that global water towers are at risk, in many cases critically, due to the threats of climate change, growing populations, mismanagement of water resources, and other geopolitical factors. Further, the authors conclude that it is essential to develop international, mountain-specific conservation and climate change adaptation policies and strategies to safeguard both ecosystems and people downstream.

Globally, the most relied-upon mountain system is the Indus water tower in Asia, according to their research. The Indus water tower—made up of vast areas of the Himalayan mountain range and covering portions of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan—is also one of the most vulnerable. High-ranking water tower systems on other continents are the southern Andes, the Rocky Mountains and the European Alps.

To determine the importance of these 78 water towers, researchers analyzed the various factors that determine how reliant downstream communities are upon the supplies of water from these systems. They also assessed each water tower to determine the vulnerability of the water resources, as well as the people and ecosystems that depend on them, based on predictions of future climate and socioeconomic changes.

Of the 78 global water towers identified, the following are the five most relied-upon systems by continent:

  • Asia: Indus, Tarim, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Ganges-Brahmaputra
  • Europe: Rhône, Po, Rhine, Black Sea North Coast, Caspian Sea Coast
  • North America: Fraser, Columbia and Northwest United States, Pacific and Arctic Coast, Saskatchewan-Nelson, North America-Colorado
  • South America: South Chile, South Argentina, Negro, La Puna region, North Chile

The study, which was authored by 32 scientists from around the world, was led by Prof. Walter Immerzeel (Utrecht University) and Dr. Arthur Lutz (Utrecht University and FutureWater), longtime researchers of water and climate change in high mountain Asia.


In 2016, FutureWater released a new dataset: HiHydroSoil v1.2, containing global maps with a spatial resolution of 1 km of soil hydraulic properties to support hydrological modeling. Since then, the maps of the HiHydroSoil v1.2 database have been used a lot in hydrological modeling throughout the world in numerous (scientific) projects. A few examples of the use of HiHydoSoil v1.2 are shown in the report.

Important input of the HiHydroSoil database is ISRICS’ SoilGrids database: a high resolution dataset with soil properties and classes on a global scale. In May 2020, ISRIC has released the latest version (v2.0) of its Soilgrids250m product. This release has made it possible for FutureWater to update its HiHydroSoil v1.2 database with newer, more precise and with a higher resolution soil data, which resulted in the development and release of HiHydroSoil v2.0.

Soil information is the basis for all environmental studies. Since local soil maps of good quality are often not available, global soil maps with a low resolution are used. Furthermore, soil maps do not include information about soil hydraulic properties, which are of importance in, for example, hydrological modeling, erosion assessment and crop yield modelling. HiHydroSoil v2.0 can fill this data gap. HiHydroSoil v2.0 includes the following data:

  • Organic Matter Content
  • Soil Texture Class
  • Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity
  • Mualem van Genuchten parameters Alfa and N
  • Saturated Water Content
  • Residual Water Content
  • Water content at pF2, pF3 and pF4.2
  • Hydrologic Soil Group (USDA)

Download HiHydroSoil v2.0

The HiHydroSoil v2.0 database can be accessed after filling the brief request form below. A download link to the full dataset will then be provided. The HiHydroSoil v2.0 dataset is organized in two folders, one containing the original data for each of the six depths, and one with the aggregated subsoil and topsoil data. All data layers are delivered in geotiff raster format.

Another option is to access the data through Google Earth Engine. The HiHydroSoil v2.0 data is available on Google Earth Engine using the following link.

Important! To avoid lengthy download times, the data layers originally consisting of float data type were multiplied by a factor of 10,000, and subsequently converted to integer type. It is therefore required to translate the data to the proper units by multiplying with 0.0001. These steps are also described in the readme file delivered with the data.

The overall aim of the Guidance is to supporting adaptation decision making for climate-resilient investments with the main objective to scale-up ADB’s investments in climate change adaptation in Asia and the Pacific. The Good Practice Guidance on climate-resilient infrastructure design and associated training modules will help project teams to incorporate climate projections information into project design. The guideline is based both on insights gained by experts in supporting climate-resilient project development, and on state-of-the-art reviews of emerging engineering design and decision-making protocols that reflect the impacts of climate change. Sector guidance will be provided for agriculture and food security, energy, transport, urban development, and water. FutureWater takes the lead in the water sector guidance.

Training modules targeting member countries officials and ADB operational staff involved in the design of resilient infrastructure projects will be developed to facilitate the wider dissemination of, and capacity building around, the good practice guidance and enhanced availability of climate projections data. Training modules will be developed for both in person delivery at training sessions and distance learning to enable on-demand technical capacity building. The format of the in-person training sessions will be determined in consultation with the operational teams and could take a “training of trainers” approach.

The AgriSeasonal project ambitions to develop commercial seasonal climate services targeted to agricultural practices and related water management decisions. Our main goal is to advance toward a prosperous and climate-resilient agricultural sector. The team members are from France (SUEZ and TEC-Conseil), Netherlands (FutureWater), Spain (CETAQUA and FutureWater Cartagena).

During the year 2017 and 2018, a wealth of climate data and customised seasonal forecasts have been made freely available from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They provide additional information on the future conditions to be expected in the next few months regarding rainfall, temperature, soil moisture, etc. Still, the complexity of these forecasts and the lack of decision variables adapted to agricultural end-users remain key barriers for adoption of the forecasts.

This project works in close cooperation with diverse group of European end-users including irrigation communities, crop and wine producers to define where, when and how these forecasts can be used to enhance decision making and lead to more climate-resilient businesses. The end-product will be a range of co-design seasonal climate services adapted to the needs of the sector.

In what follows the specific objectives and expected outcomes of the project:

1. Perform service conceptualization with end-users
The outline of the services will be upgraded following a co-design methodology with the end-users, considering what they perceived as important to have a successful service (e.g. skill, delivery-date, type of visualization of results, interconnection with other systems). This will be done by meeting with the end-users and following a framework of service conceptualization adapted to climate services using dynamic seasonal forecasts. This first critical task will ensure an appropriate product development from an initial stage, creating benefits to the customer.

2. Validate the service design
Based on the first phase, a preliminary design of the service will be made for the different customers. Mock-ups will be made and presented so our clients can better understand and provide feedback. To validate critical components of the design, laboratory testing will be done (e.g. use of COPERNICUS API to extract data, propagation of uncertainty using crop growth model, interoperability with other systems). Mock-ups and tests will be presented in various iterations to the client to receive feedback and further adapt the design. This participative design process will guarantee a suitable product development from an initial stage (suitability of the service) and provide a clear vision to the client on future developments and possibilities.

3. Produce a comprehensive business plan
A market analysis will provide information on the current situation and trends related to the services to be developed. Due to the rapid evolution of the climate services market in Europe this aspect is particularly important (e.g. change introduce by EU strategic Roadmap on Climate Service, Data Availability from Copernicus C3S…). In addition, it is essential to make the right choices for the business model to be successful. Market analysis and business model would ensure an appropriate vision on the service development stages, delivery model and insertion in partner´s portfolio. This would ensure the economic viability of the services at short and mid-term horizons.

To adapt to a changing climate, large investments are required across the globe. The World Bank (2010), estimates required investments in the range of USD 70-100 billion annually in developing countries, and the global total cost of potential climate change damage are tenfold this amount. Governments, regional development banks, international donors and investors require information on where adaptation measures are most effective and most feasible in a specific context. More specifically, policymakers and investors need the following information:

  • Insight in current and future water scarcity and socio-economic and environmental impacts
  • Effectiveness of a wide range of possible adaptation measures
  • Possibilities to zoom in from a global scoping level of analysis to a regional assessment
  • Rapid economic assessment of effectiveness of possible investments

To make information more easily accessible to end users, the Climate-KIC supported innovation project Water2Invest developed an offline and online tool to access results from a global model (PCR-GLOBWB , and WatCAM ). Water2invest combines established modelling frameworks to quickly analyse the effectiveness and impacts of interventions to address water scarcity under different future scenarios at global and regional scales. Unique is the approach to use so-called “water provinces”: regional units that combine the hydrological realism with the decision making administrative units.  The tool combines computations of water availability and water demand, taking account of existing infrastructure and operational rule, and translates results into indicators for cost-effectiveness, and for societal and environmental impacts. Users can adjust model settings to customize computations. Additional functionalities with regard to assessing tailor-made water infrastructure interventions, information on effects and impacts, aggregation level and comparison and presentation options are currently under development.

W2ICCThe envisaged business model for Water2Invest included a ‘fremium’ model with some information available for free and other information available against charge. The freely available information focuses on basic information for global scoping level analysis. This information includes insight in future water shortages per type of water user, effectiveness of different measures and a first indication of financing possibilities for these measures at the level of individual water provinces (intersection of countries and river basins). The  ‘premium’ version will provide more detailed information, such as more information on costs and benefits of measures, and on investments possibilities and barriers, and enhanced functionalities to aggregated and compare data. Both versions were intended to be available as on-line as well as off-line versions.

To make the step towards a “premium” business model, it is necessary to carry out a regional validation and demonstration. The tool should be applied and fine-tuned for a more detailed analysis, focusing on a few case study regions and together with potential end-users in this region. This validation and demonstration should be performed together with potential users to meet their needs, requirements and willingness to pay. A regional detailed assessment on effectiveness of measures and investment prioritization in which end-users are directly involved, should demonstrate the fitness of the tool and enable full market exploitation. Specific attention will be paid to the demonstration of the so-called “water marginal cost curves” that allow prioritization of climate adaptation investment portfolios and that are a direct output of the Water2Invest tool.

The validation and demonstration will focus on three different key regions, each in a very different geographical context but all with a high need for climate adaptation investments:

  • Incomati basin, Mozambique. Potential end-user: ARA-Sul
  • Segura and Jucar basin, Spain. Potential end-user: Segura and Jucar water authority
  • Upper-Indus basin. Potential end-user: World Bank through its Upper-Indus initiative.

Besides these end-users, the project will also reach out to other potential customers for regional applications of Water2Invest: World Bank, Regional development banks (Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank) as they finance large (non-)infrastructural measures for climate adaptation in these regions.

The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has funded several major research programs on Integrated Water Resources Management and Global Change. Currently, BMBF is in the process of identifying promising future research themes by analyzing the international water research and policy landscape and by taking stock of recent achievements.

FutureWater was asked to provide support for the theme «Food and Water» based on their extensive experiences on this topic. They provided an overview of recent and emerging developments in this research areas and they evaluated research themes with respect to their potential for scientific breakthroughs, political impact and suitability for the German water community. Recommendations were developed for a future research program of the BMBF on Water Resources and Agriculture.

Appropriate planning in water resources, and more specifically in irrigation, is becoming increasingly important given the challenges of already-stressed water resources, climate change, growing population, increase in prosperity, potential food shortages, etc. However, policy makers and planners are often constrained, in this context of increasing complexity, by insufficient knowledge and tools to evaluate the consequences of alternative interventions and thus make the appropriate decisions. Furthermore, important misconceptions often underlie strategies proposed to address these problems.

To illuminate these issues, a scenario-based policy oriented demonstration model is presented here. The term model here refers more to a demonstration tool rather than a software package. The model as developed includes physical processes, but at a lumped and parametric level. Most importantly, the model will focus on scenario and intervention analysis, so that policy makers can better understand and evaluate the impact and interactions of a certain change or decision they plan to make, and the changing environment in which they are operating.

The model is developed in WEAP and is based on water scarce basin. A copy of the WEAP model can be obtained through SEI.

The infrastructure deficit in Africa is vast. The World Bank estimates that $US 93 billion is needed to improve Africa’s infrastructure; nearly half of it on power supply. This amount will be much greater for new infrastructure that is (i) low carbon, (ii) climate proofed, and (iii) developmentally-sound and sustainable. Climate change is expected to have important implications of the cost, design standards and location of infrastructure projects in a number of ways:

  • As extreme events become more frequent, the cost of meeting a given reliability standard can be expected to increase;
  • Climate change could be expected to alter the optimal standard to which infrastructure should be built;
  • Climate change can be expected to alter the pattern of demand for infrastructure;
  • Climate change could be expected to affect the optimal choice of infrastructure technologies;
  • Since infrastructure basically increases the inter-connectedness of places, it provides a natural way of diversifying climate risk.

Since what climate will actually occur will remain largely uncertain in the foreseeable future, the challenge is to develop decision making frameworks capable of leading to investment decisions that are “desirable” under a wide range of possible climate outcomes. FutureWater is providing the foundation for the development of these frameworks. This involves conducting a rapid stock-taking exercise to ensure that there is a thorough understanding of the actors, on-going activities and available models and datasets upon which the new work will build and developing a conceptual framework for the subsequent analysis.



Decisions makers responsible for climate change adaptation investments are confronted with a huge knowledge gap. On the other hand, scientists have gained much fundamental knowledge about climate impacts, but practical use of this knowledge is very limited as applied tools as well as knowledge transition is sparse. We aim to build a web-based service from which it is possible to select a country or region on a global map, calculate the current water availability from surface water and groundwater as well as current water demands from the three sectors (agriculture, industry, domestic) and to assess from this the current water shortage as well as the looming water shortage under scenarios of climate change and socio-economic development. Based on these assessments, various technological and infrastructural adaptation measures can be evaluated to assess the investments needed to bridge the water gap.

Apart from financial consequences of choices, we also aim to add, for each strategy or sets of strategies chosen: 1) indicators for the effects on the environment and downstream water availability (including downstream regions/countries); 2) indicators of the sensitivity to upstream development of water resources. For instance, building a reservoir is useless if most of the runoff is generated in a country upstream that is planning to build a reservoir for irrigation itself; 3) indicators of the socio-economic costs/benefits of different infrastructure investment options for the region or country, which will enable decision makers to choose the most efficient (mix of) infrastructure measures; 4) provide guidance by identifying financing scheme options, giving recommendations for funding, such as possibilities of PPP (public-private partnerships) 5) possibility for automatic generation of an assessment and investment report containing the analyses performed.

The tool can be used by consultants, water authorities, non-governmental and commercial investors alike to test investment strategies, but could also be used by companies as a vehicle for advertisement of water saving or crop water productivity technologies that can be evaluated on their effectiveness on the spot. The overall aim is therefore to develop and bring to market a combination of products/services that on the one hand influences existing decision making and on the other hand creates a new value chain from science to consultant to end-users.