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New research shows communities around small reservoirs more vulnerable to climate extremes

* Surface area of small reservoirs are far more variable than medium-sized reservoirs  
* New Global Water Watch tool identified and analysed over 71,000 reservoirs 

12, August 2022 The water volume in small reservoirs is significantly more susceptible to seasonal and climate variability than larger reservoirs, leaving communities that rely on them more vulnerable to water scarcity and food insecurity, according to new research. 

Published last Friday in Nature Scientific Research, a new study identified and analysed 71,208 small and medium reservoirs using Global Water Watch, a platform that provides free, globally-accessible, near-real-time information on water. This platform is being development by Deltares, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and is supported by Google.org and the Water, Peace and Security Partnership. 
With water crises worsening due to growing demands and the escalating impacts of climate change, accessible and reliable water data is going to be increasingly important.

High resolution satellite imagery
Using high resolution satellite imagery, machine learning, and cloud computing, the study found that the surface area of small reservoirs, which are critical to the well-being of many communities across the world, varies far more than medium-sized reservoirs – 52% more between years and, more importantly, 84% more between seasons. 

"Our study provides the most detailed and accurate information on the dynamics of Earth's reservoirs today. The dataset derived from freely available satellite images of, and open-source algorithms developed in this research will help manage water better, provide early warning for drouths, food shortages, and fact-check local data", said Gennadii Donchyts, remote sensing expert at Deltares. "Global Water Watch will help to boost transparency on transboundary river water management, across sectors and societal groups leading to higher equality."
Global Water Watch processes millions of freely-available images from NASA/USGS Landsat and ESA/Copernicus Sentinel satellite missions to generate information on water availability for thousands of reservoirs globally and makes this information freely available to anyone to ensure sustainable water use.
Managing water resources sustainably, efficiently and equitably
While most previous studies have focussed on large reservoirs and lakes, this paper shows how Global Water Watch datasets and algorithms can provide unprecedented information to support water managers and river basin authorities as well as communities and companies to regularly monitor water dynamics in small and medium reservoirs – helping them to manage water resources more sustainably, efficiently, and equitably. 

“The growing ability to leverage high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor emergent water risks is changing how we can support communities and basins in the face of climate instability,” noted Alexis Morgan, WWF’s Global Water Stewardship Lead. “At WWF, we see Global Water Watch as a key resource for the water community that can increase water data transparency and help democratize information.”

“Growing pressures on water resources undermine water security and contribute to conflict, migration, health crises and food and energy insecurity across the world,” said Charlie Iceland, Interim Director, Water Program, World Resources Institute and a lead of the Water, Peace, and Security Partnership. “Data on global water resources is essential for managing these risks and challenges.”

“At Google.org we believe that advanced technologies like Global Water Watch are changing the game in helping us understand, monitor, and predict water resource availability around the world. Global Water Watch is the type of climate solution that is only possible through the application of AI with Earth observation data." said Andrew Dunckelman, Head of Impact and Insights at Google.org. "We’re incredibly proud to support this vital work and help Global Water Watch become the go-to platform for discovering and accessing water data in support of adaptation efforts for our changing climate.”

Better response to extreme weather events
The Global Water Watch platform provides critical information that will help decision-makers respond to extreme weather events, manage growing risks of climate change, make societies more climate resilient and preserve and restore our vital ecosystems and the many services they provide. With increasing global warming, droughts such as currently happening in Europe, will happen more often, which together with growing water demands will severely affect the freshwater availability for food and drinking water. Transboundary and basin-wide monitoring of these scarce resources then becomes ever more important to better manage the little resources available.


Notes for editors:
Global Water Watch can be accessed at www.globalwaterwatch.earth
The study was supported by Google.org’s Impact Challenge on Climate, and the Water, Peace, and Security Partnership (supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
For more information:
About Global Water Watch

Global Water Watch data ensures all actors, even those without monitoring capabilities, have the same information in water negotiations, which could help create a level playing field for global water resource information.

Global Water Watch, supported by Google.org and the Water, Peace, and Security Partnership, provides free, globally accessible, near-real-time information on water. Deltares, World Resources Institute (WRI), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have partnered to create the data platform, which will house information on over 70,000 global reservoirs and major river systems, derived using satellite data, machine learning, and cloud computing. This data will help decision-makers respond to extreme weather events, manage growing risks of climate change, make societies more climate resilient, and preserve and restore our vital ecosystems and the many services they provide. 
About Google.org

Google.org, Google's philanthropy, supports nonprofits that address humanitarian issues and apply scalable, data-driven innovation to solving the world's biggest challenges. We accelerate their progress by connecting them with a unique blend of support that includes funding, products, and technical expertise from Google volunteers. We engage with these believers-turned-doers who make a significant impact on the communities they represent, and whose work has the potential to produce meaningful change. We want a world that works for everyone—and we believe technology and innovation can move the needle.

About Deltares 

Deltares is an independent institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface. Throughout the world, we work on smart solutions, innovations and applications for people, environment and society. From the perspective of water, the subsurface and infrastructure, Deltares will be working on four Mission Areas in which the institute sets out its contributions to the international and Dutch agendas and tasks: Future deltas, Sustainable deltas, Safe deltas and Resilient infrastructure. More information: www.deltares.nl or on Twitter @Deltares. 

About Water, Peace, and Security Partnership

The Water, Peace and Security (WPS) partnership was founded in 2018 to develop innovative tools and services that help local stakeholders identify, understand and address water-related security risks. The Partnership uses cutting-edge technology to increase awareness and understanding. This knowledge is used in participatory analysis, capacity building and awareness raising activities to support timely, informed and inclusive action in regions prone to water-related conflict, such as Mali, Iraq, Ethiopia and Kenya. WPS is a collaboration between the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and a consortium of six partners: Deltares, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), IHE Delft (lead partner), International Alert, Wetlands International and World Resources Institute (WRI).

About World Resources Institute  

World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, regional offices in Ethiopia (for Africa) and the Netherlands (for Europe), and program offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Our more than 1,600 experts and staff turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. More information at www.wri.org or on Twitter @WorldResources.

About WWF

WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources; follow us on Twitter @WWF_media
© Global Water Watch
Overview of the reservoirs included in the Global Water Watch database and their surface water area dynamics
© Global Water Watch
The Global Water Watch figure shows how much surface water area of reservoirs changes between seasons and years during 2000-2021 and the trend or inter-annual variability.
© Simon de TREY-WHITE / WWF-UK
Two boys getting drinking water

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