Articles | Volume 366
10 Apr 2015
 | 10 Apr 2015

Hydrological extremes and security

Z. W. Kundzewicz and P. Matczak

Abstract. Economic losses caused by hydrological extremes – floods and droughts – have been on the rise. Hydrological extremes jeopardize human security and impact on societal livelihood and welfare. Security can be generally understood as freedom from threat and the ability of societies to maintain their independent identity and their functional integrity against forces of change. Several dimensions of security are reviewed in the context of hydrological extremes. The traditional interpretation of security, focused on the state military capabilities, has been replaced by a wider understanding, including economic, societal and environmental aspects that get increasing attention. Floods and droughts pose a burden and serious challenges to the state that is responsible for sustaining economic development, and societal and environmental security. The latter can be regarded as the maintenance of ecosystem services, on which a society depends. An important part of it is water security, which can be defined as the availability of an adequate quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies. Security concerns arise because, over large areas, hydrological extremes − floods and droughts − are becoming more frequent and more severe. In terms of dealing with water-related risks, climate change can increase uncertainties, which makes the state’s task to deliver security more difficult and more expensive. However, changes in population size and development, and level of protection, drive exposure to hydrological hazards.