Dams, food security and climate change: Recent research provides innovative management recommendations

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The book “Sustainability of Engineered Rivers in Arid Lands: Challenge and Response” provides a comprehensive analysis of engineered waterways and the policies and management structures required to maintain their critical contribution to food security and drinking water supply, as well as maintaining environmental flow.

Houston, TX (November 30, 2021) – On November 16, 2021, Cambridge University Press released the hard-cover version of “Sustainability of Engineered Rivers in Arid Lands: Challenge and Response (SERIDAS)”. The book presents the work of a 30-member team of researchers from different continents who studied the future sustainability of ten heavily engineered rivers from around the world: Murray-Darling in Australia, the Yellow, Tigris and Euphrates in Asia, the Nile in Africa, the Jucar in Europe, the Limari and São Francisco in South America, and the Rio Grande and Colorado in North America. HARC supported the work from its start in 2013.  

SERIDAS stands for Sustainability of Engineered Rivers in Arid Lands. A group of river experts projected future water supply and demand in the above mentioned heavily engineered rivers. A second group of team members, including HARC researcher staff, advised the river experts on how to deal with future risks, such as impacts of climate change, increasing water demand, reservoir sedimentation, and declining environmental flows. 

“SERIDAS asks this critical question: how can these rivers, all fed by rain in upstream mountain regions or from glacier snowmelt, and downstream flowing through arid regions with productive soil for irrigated agriculture, manage their water resources under increasing pressure from climate change, water scarcity, increasing demand and dated policies?” The question is asked by Dr. Jurgen Schmandt, professor emeritus of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and distinguished fellow at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). Schmandt served as editor and co-author of “SERIDAS.”  

Engineered rivers are the lifeblood of irrigated agriculture, produce electricity, and supply water for industry and cities in the river basins. Over the course of the last century and a half, governments equipped most prominent rivers in the world with one or several engineered dams, bypass canals, and distribution channels. As a result, river engineering brings immense benefits to farmers and cities. 

It also creates risks. In this study, the team sought to understand how the rivers will do in 2040 and 2060. The research team analyzed both physical and social drivers of change. On nature’s side:  climate change, reservoir sedimentation, surface-to-groundwater connection, and environmental flow. On the social side: population and land-use changes, options for more efficient water use for irrigation and urban supply, and improved policies and management practices.  

“SERIDAS marks the achievement of years of work and global collaboration to produce a book that  suggests a common framework for assessing future water supply and demand in these global river basins and recommend future management strategies to keep the rivers sustainable,” says Dr. Stephanie Glenn, Director of the Water Program at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). Dr. Glenn is also a co-author of the book.  

The book is available to order from Cambridge University Press or Amazon. More information on the project may be found online at HARCresearch.org/SERIDAS. 


SERIDAS marks the achievement of years of work and global collaboration to produce a book that suggests a common framework for assessing future water supply and demand in these global river basins and recommend future management strategies to keep the rivers sustainable.

Dr. Stephanie Glenn, HARC