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Improving Data, Methods and Tools

Longer-term evaluations of water resources management are typically framed by assumptions on future water supplies, water demands and operating constraints (e.g., regulatory, institutional or other operating criteria related to various system objectives), and each of these assumption has a climate context which may be informed by past or projected climate information.  For the purpose of defining user needs within this frame, eight technical areas are identified to represent the various method areas involved with incorporating climate change information into long-term resources management studies (Figure 1) or evaluations of infrastructure safety and flood risk reduction (Figure 2).  Description of these areas and links to user needs and research activities under each area are provided below.  

  • Area 1: Summarize Relevant Literature:  For a given planning study, this area involves identifying, synthesizing, and summarizing previous research on global to regional climate change and what it means for the region’s water resources.

  • Area 2: Obtain Climate Change Information: This area involves obtaining contemporary climate projections and associated uncertainties that may have been spatially downscaled to finer resolution desired for water resources planning at the regional to local scale.  This area also involves consideration of paleoclimate proxies that may imply climate conditions different from those of the observed record.

  • Area 3: Make Decisions About How To Use the Climate Change Information: From the body of climate projections surveyed, decisions must be made on which projections to use and which aspects of these projections to relate to planning assumptions on water supplies, water demands, and operating constraints.

  • Area 4: Assess Natural System Responses:  Based on the preceding area’s decisions, this area involves assessing the natural systems response under projected climate conditions.  Results from these analyses will be used to set assumptions about future water supplies, water demands, and operating constraints.  Types of natural systems responses include watershed hydrology, ecosystems, land cover, water quality, consumptive use requirements of irrigated lands, sedimentation and river hydraulics, and sea level rise.

  • Area 5: Assess Socioeconomic and Institutional Response: This area involves assessing social, economic, and institutional responses to climate change that could influence planning assumptions concerning water demands and operating constraints (e.g., constraints that determine source of supply preference and/or expected level of operating performance relative to objectives such as flood risk reduction, environmental management, water quality management, water allocation for agricultural and municipal use, energy production, recreation, and navigation).

  • Area 6: Assess Resource Management Performance (Figure 1) or Infrastructure Safety and Flood Risk Reduction (Figure 2); Evaluate Alternatives:  This area involves assessing system risks based on future planning assumptions (informed by Areas 4 and 5); and, as necessary, evaluating long-term management alternatives to address climate change risks.  For example, many water resources management studies focus on operations risk and assumptions about future water supplies, demands, and operating constraints.  In contrast, infrastructure safety or flood risk reduction studies focus on human safety and economic and environmental damages under assumptions about future extreme hydrologic event probabilities. Water quality studies focus on the interaction between the human activities, landscape hydrology, and aquatic systems.

  • Area 7: Assess and Characterize Uncertainties:  This area involves assessing and
    characterizing uncertainties accumulated during preceding areas (e.g., uncertainties of projecting future factors forcing climate, simulating climate, downscaling climate, assessing natural and social system responses, etc.).

  • Area 8: Communicating Results and Uncertainties to Decisionmakers:  This area involves aggregating information from previous areas and then communicating this distilled information to decisionmakers to support planning decisions.
Figure 1.  Technical Areas 1-8 in the context of Incorporating Climate Projection information into Resource Management Evaluations.

Incorporating Climate Projection information into resource management areas

Figure 2.  Technical Areas 1-8 in the context of Incorporating Climate Projection information into Infrastructure Safety and Flood Risk Reduction Evaluations.

Incorporating information into infrastructure safety