Irrigation canal.
Photo: I. Eguavoen


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Water storage can help to safeguard livelihoods and reduce rural poverty. However, ill-conceived water storage will fail to deliver intended benefits and, in some cases, may worsen the negative impacts of climate change. More systematic planning is required to ensure suitable storage systems that support development targets, as an international research project demonstrates.

To provide water for households, agriculture and energy, diverse ways of storing water have been applied all over the globe. Researchers from Europe, Ethiopia and Ghana considered how this diversity could better contribute to food security and poverty reduction under conditions of climate change. They have developed the concept of a water storage continuum (see Figure below).

When it is abundant, water can be stored in reservoirs, aquifers, soil and wetlands. Technical devices, such as pumps or dam outlets, enable this water to be used during drier periods. Importantly for agriculture, water can also be withdrawn directly from soils by plants and crops. Each type of water storage has its own niche in terms of environmental and social impacts. The impact of different types of storage on poverty and food security can vary significantly, with some options being more effective than others.

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