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IWAAC Report: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Implications for inland waterways in England and Wales

Published 2009 

The aim of this report is to showcase research and findings of how inland waterways in England and Wales can assist in mitigating for and adapting to the effects of climate change. This scoping report highlights the ‘most likely’ impacts of climate change and the potential consequences for inland waterways in England and Wales. It then identifies and assesses a range of potentially appropriate measures through which:

  • changes in use of the waterways could contribute to reducing the extent of climate change (mitigation); and
  • management of waterways may be modified to prepare for the anticipated effects of climate change (adaptation).

The Key Conclusions

The main mitigation opportunities are through reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by:

  • increasing the amount of freight transported on the waterways instead of by road;
  • reducing energy use associated with waterway infrastructure (including use of waterways as heat sources or sinks for heating or cooling adjacent buildings);
  • developing renewable energy sources, such as hydropower; and
  • reducing vessel emissions through improved design and improved practice by users.

Adaptation for the effects of changes in rainfall may involve:

  • improved systems for collection and analysis of hydrological data to help plan for anticipated drier summers and wetter winters;
  • adapting structures to accommodate greater flood flows and increased water levels;
  • improved advice to users on ‘Strong Stream’ conditions and provision of safe havens;
  • water conservation and storage to provide for navigation needs in dry summers.

Adaptation for the effects of changes in sedimentation may involve:

  • limitation of sediment inputs from land by use of buffer strips and silt traps;
  • encouragement of better design of boat hulls (eco-hulls) to reduce bank erosion;
  • optimising dredging methods and timing to protect water quality and ecology.

Adaptation for the effects of increases in temperature may involve:

  • changes in management of bankside and aquatic habitat in response to increased plant growth and a need to minimise the spread of alien species;
  • steps to maintain adequate concentrations dissolved oxygen to support aquatic life;
  • accommodation of increased demand for recreational use of waterways.