Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 827–839 | Cite as

Risk to water security for small islands: an assessment framework and application

  • Shannon HoldingEmail author
  • Diana M. Allen
Original Article


The freshwater resources of small islands are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and human stressors due to their limited extent and adaptive capacity. A water security approach is useful for effective management of the water resources; however, understanding risk to water security is critical in order to effectively plan and adapt to future changes. Currently available assessment tools generally do not incorporate risk and are not suitable for application on small islands, where the hydrogeological setting has unique vulnerabilities. The aim of this work is to provide a framework to characterize risk to water security for small islands. The risk assessment was developed using Andros Island, the Bahamas, as a case study area. Numerical modelling characterizes the response of the water system to potential future stressors related to climate change and human development, the results of which are integrated into the assessment framework. Based on risk assessment principles, indicators are determined for susceptibility, hazard threat, vulnerability and loss, in order to define the risk to water security. The resulting indicators are presented in geospatial maps that rank areas of risk to water security. These maps were provided to local water managers and policy-makers in the Bahamas as a tool to identify high-risk areas for near-term action and to inform long-term planning. The maps have also been used as a platform to engage local residents and raise awareness about the impact climate change and land-use activities may have on water security.


Small islands Water security Risk assessment Climate change Land use 



This research was supported by the Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project™ in partnership with The Nature Conservancy Northern Caribbean Office and the Bahamas National Trust. The Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation provided field data for model calibration. Additional funding was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through a Discovery Grant to Diana Allen.

Supplementary material

10113_2015_794_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (103 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 104 kb)


  1. Adger WN (2006) Vulnerability. Global Environ Chang 16:268–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger WN, Brown K, Nelson DR, Berkes F, Eakin H, Folke C, Galvin K, Gunderson L, Goulden M, O’Brien K, Ruitenbeek J, Tompkins E (2011) Resilience implications of policy responses to climate change. WIREs Clim Chang 2:757–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aller LT, Bennet T, Lehr JH, Petty RJ, Hackett G (1987) DRASTIC: a standardized system for evaluating ground water pollution potential using hydrogeologic settings. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/600/2-87/035, Washington, DC, p 455Google Scholar
  4. Anderson WP Jr (2002) Aquifer salinization from storm overwash. J Coast Res 18(3):413–420Google Scholar
  5. Barlow PM (2003) Ground water in freshwater-saltwater environments of the Atlantic Coast, vol 1262. U.S. Department of the Interior, US Geol. Surv., Circular, Reston, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnett J, Lambert S, Fry I (2008) The hazards of indicators: insights from the environmental vulnerability index. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 98:102–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Birkmann J (2006) Measuring vulnerability to promote disaster resilient societies: conceptual frameworks and definitions. In: Birkmann J (ed) Measuring vulnerability to natural hazards: towards disaster resilient societies. United Nations University Press, Tokyo, pp 9–54Google Scholar
  8. Bobba AG (2002) Numerical modeling of salt-water intrusion due to human activities and sea-level change in the Godavari Delta, India. Hydrol Sci J 47:67–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cashman A (2014) Water security and services in the Caribbean. Water 6:1187–1203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cashman A, Nurse L, Charlery J (2010) Climate change in the Caribbean: the water management implications. J Environ Dev 19(1):42–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chui TF, Terry JP (2013) Influence of sea-level rise on freshwater lenses of different atoll island sizes and lens resilience to storm-induced salinization. J Hydrol 502:18–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Civita M, De Maio M (1997) SINTACS: a parametric system for the assessment and cartography of the assessment of groundwater vulnerability to pollution. Metodologia e automazione, Pitagora Ed., BolognaGoogle Scholar
  13. Cook C, Bakker K (2012) Water security: debating an emerging paradigm. Global Environ Chang-Human Policy Dimens 22(1):94–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doerfliger N, Zwahlen F (1997) EPIK: new method for outlining of protection areas in karstic environments. In: EC international symposium, karst water and environment impacts, Antalaya, Turkey, Balkema, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, pp 117–123Google Scholar
  15. Dunn G, Bakker K (2011) Fresh water-related indicators in Canada: an inventory and analysis. Can Water Resour J 36(2):135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dunn G, Cook C, Bakker K, Allen D (2012) Water security guidance document: part 1, section 1: defining and assessing water security
  17. Falkenmark M, Berntell A, Jägerskog A, Lundqvist J, Matz M, Tropp H (2007) On the verge of a new water scarcity: a call for good governance and human ingenuity. Stockholm International Water Institute Policy BriefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falkland A (ed) (1991) Hydrology and water resources of small island: a practical guide. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ParisGoogle Scholar
  19. Foster SSD, Hirata RCA (1988) Groundwater pollution risk evaluation: the methodology using available data. WHO-PAHO/HPE-CEPIS Technical Manual, Lima 78Google Scholar
  20. Freeze RA, Cherry JA (1977) Groundwater. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  21. Global Water Partnership (GWP) (2000) Towards water security: a framework for action. GWP, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  22. Green TR, Taniguchi M, Kooi H, Gurdak JJ, Allen DM, Hiscock KM, Aureli A (2011) Beneath the surface of global change: impacts of climate change on groundwater. J Hydrol 405(3–4):532–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grey D, Sadoff CW (2007) Sink or swim? Water security for growth and development. Water Policy 9:545–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hallegate S (2009) Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change. Global Environ Chang 19:240–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Holding ST (2014) Risk to water security on small islands: a numerical modeling approach. PhD Thesis, Simon Fraser University, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  26. Holding S, Allen DM (2015) From days to decades: numerical modelling of freshwater lens response to climate change stressors on small low-lying islands. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 19:933–949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. IPCC (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A special report of working groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Plattner GK, Allen SK, Tignor M, and Midgley PM (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, pp 582Google Scholar
  28. IPCC (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V and Midgley PM (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC (2014) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: regional aspects. Contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Barros VR, Field CB, Dokken DJ, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, and White LL (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  30. Langevin CD, Thorne DT Jr, Dausman AM, Sukop MC, Guo W (2007) SEAWAT version 4: a computer program for simulation of multi-species solute and heat transport. U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods Book 6, Chapter A22, pp 39Google Scholar
  31. Lautze J, Manthrithilake H (2012) Water security: old concepts, new package, what value? Nat Resour Forum 36:76–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Little BG, Buckley DK, Jefferiss A, Stark J, Young RN (1973) Land resources of the commonwealth of the Bahamas, vol 4. Andros Island, Land Resources Division, Tolworth Tower, SurreyGoogle Scholar
  33. MCK Environmental Ltd (2013) Blue water project community surveys. The Nature Conservancy Northern Caribbean Office ReportGoogle Scholar
  34. McCarthy JJ, Canziani O, Leary NA, Dokken DJ, White KS (eds) (2001) Climate Change 2001: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, IPCC working group II. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. McSweeney C, New M, Lizcano G, Lu X (2010) The UNDP climate change country profiles. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91:157–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nunn PD (2009) Responding to the challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands: management and technological imperatives. Clim Res 40:211–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oude Essink GHP (2001) Improving fresh groundwater supply—problems and solutions. Ocean Coast Manag 44:429–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ranjan P, Kazama S, Sawamoto M, Sana A (2009) Global scale evaluation of coastal fresh groundwater resources. Ocean Coast Manag 52:197–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Robins NS (2013) A review of small island hydrogeology: progress (and setbacks) during the recent past. Q J Eng Geol Hydrogeol 46:157–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rockström J, Lannerstad M, Falkenmark M (2007) Assessing the water challenge of a new green revolution in developing countries. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(15):6253–6260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Simpson MWM, Allen DM, Journeay MM (2013) Assessing risk to groundwater quality using an integrated risk framework. Environ Earth Sci 71:4939–4956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Terry JP, Chui TFM (2012) Evaluating the fate of freshwater lenses on atoll islands after eustatic sea-level rise and cyclone-driven inundation: a modeling approach. Global Planet Chang 88–89:76–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tompkins E (2005) Planning for climate change in small islands: insights from national hurricane preparedness in the Cayman Islands. Global Environ Chang 15:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. UNESCO-IHP (2012) Final report. 20th Session of the intergovernmental council, Paris, 4–7 June, 2012. UNESCO, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  45. van Leeuwen CJ, Frijns J, van Wezel A, van de Ven FHM (2012) City blueprints: 24 indicators to assess the sustainability of the urban water cycle. Water Resour Manag 26:2177–2197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Stempvoort D, Ewert D, Wassenaar L (1992) AVI: a method for groundwater protection mapping in the prairie provinces of Canada. PPWD pilot project, September 1991–March 1992. Groundwater and Contaminants Project, Environmental Sciences Division, National Hydrology Research Institute, SaskatoonGoogle Scholar
  47. White I, Falkland A (2010) Management of freshwater lenses on small Pacific islands. Hydrogeol J 18:227–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zwahlen F (2004) Vulnerability and risk mapping for the protection of carbonate (karstic) aquifers. Final report COST action 620. European Commission Directorate-General for Research, Brussels, LuxemburgGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

Personalised recommendations