Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law
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Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law

Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren

This timely Research Handbook discusses the challenges brought about by the need to adapt to a changing climate. It considers how adaptation is necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere which is already unavoidable due to past emissions.
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Chapter 9: Climate change adaptation and water law

Jonathan Verschuuren


This chapter deals with adaptation in water (management) law, focusing primarily on floods and droughts in fresh water systems. I will explore whether current water law is sufficiently equipped to meet the challenges of climate change. In other words, through a smart use of existing water laws, can the necessary adaptation measures in the field of fresh water management be carried out, or do we need an adaptation of the law? After a brief overview of the impacts of climate change on fresh water resources in section 2, these questions will be answered through an analysis of the basic elements of international and domestic water law: the right to water, the principle of reasonable and equitable use, and the river basin approach (sections 3, 4 and 5 respectively). Under these basic elements, most water adaptation issues, such as floods and droughts, stormwater management and drinking water supply will be dealt with. Before drawing some conclusions and deciding whether the law needs to be changed (and if so, how) in section 7, the relationship between mitigation and adaptation in the field of water law is briefly discussed in section 6. This chapter does not address coastal adaptation and coastal flooding, as this is dealt with in Chapter 10 on marine and coastal adaptation. This chapter also does not specifically deal with water as a habitat for biodiversity resources, as that is discussed in Chapter 11 on biodiversity.

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