Managing River Areas in Times of Climate Change

Scoping study for a CCICED Special Policy Study

A scoping study coordinated by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency shows that improved and integrated river basin management is essential for adequate adaptation to climate change. In addition, it also has global potential to contribute to multiple sustainability challenges. The study finds that policy developments in most countries still barely include climate change adaptation and that there are very few truly integrated approaches.

The study was coordinated by PBL, at the request of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), and executed together with a team of international experts. It will likely be used as the basis for a five year, internationally oriented, special policy study by the CCICED.

Main Findings

River systems are complex, linking the headwaters in the mountains to the deltas and coastal seas downstream. Around the world and in China, river systems are facing multiple stresses, such as the effects of changes in water and sediment flows, pollution (including legacy pollution), canalisation, water abstraction and wetland reclamation. Compared to the current effects of climate change and sea level rise on some river systems, the impact of these other stressors may be greater, in the short term. In combination with climate change, however, these stresses often introduce different dynamics — resulting in a strong decline in natural ecosystem functioning and river system quality. In other words, climate change significantly complicates, and adds to, already existing stresses.


PBL Authors
Willem Ligtvoet Jan Bakkes
Other authors


Publication title
Managing River Areas in Times of Climate Change
Publication subtitle
Scoping study for a CCICED Special Policy Study
Publication date
10 September 2021
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