Climate change and urbanization are leading to more water-stress and increasing the exposure of communities and assets to extreme hydrological events, such as floods and droughts. It is crucial to make early warning information and products available that can help minimize the loss of life and impact on economies. To do so, we need data on all water resources, in what quantity and quality, how variable they are, and how they will evolve in the foreseeable future. WMO helps strengthen the technical, human and institutional capabilities of its Members to enable them to independently assess their water resources and respond to the threat of floods and drought.
Coastal inundations are an increasing threat to the lives and livelihoods of people, living in low-lying, highly populated coastal areas. The management of such risk represents a great challenge to scientists – meteorologists, hydrologists and oceanographers alike – policy-makers, emergency management and for coastal planning. Operational systems for integrated coastal inundation forecasting and warning provide objective basis for coastal disaster (flooding) management that reduce losses of life, livelihood and property and enhance resilience and sustainability in weather-ready, climate-smart, water-conscious coastal communities.
Floods are the most common natural disaster, causing enormous loss of life and property. Flood impact records show that the number of flood fatalities is gradually decreasing, thanks in part to better early warning. But economic losses continue to increase, spurred by lack of attention to prevention, economic growth and lack of flood sensitive land-use planning. Absolute safety from flooding is a myth but it is possible to live with floods if properly prepared. Integrating land use, water resources and risk management in river basins can help us minimize loss of life from flooding and maximize net benefits from flood plains.
Drought is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle that can occur anywhere in the world. It is a slow on-set phenomenon caused by a lack of rainfall. Compounding factors, such as poverty and inappropriate land use, increase vulnerability to drought. When drought causes water and food shortages, there can be many impacts on the health of the population, which may increase morbidity and result in death. In recent years, most drought-related mortality has occurred in countries also experiencing political and civil unrest. In the period from 1970 to 2012, drought caused almost 680 000 deaths, due to the severe African droughts of 1975, 1983 and 1984.