Building capacity for addressing future uncertainty in Reclamation's long-term planning and decisionmaking process

Project ID: 1771
Principal Investigator: Kenneth Nowak
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2017 and 2018
Keywords: None

Research Question

Water resources planners have always contended with uncertainty about future conditions in developing projects to provide reliable benefits over expected uncertain futures. Increasingly, the scientific, engineering, and planning communities are better exposing and contending with uncertainty about future weather, streamflow, population, demands, and use types, to name a few. Further, Reclamation planning activities must also address increased human development within watersheds, and requirements that Reclamation projects meet multiple and sometimes competing objectives. This confluence of planning requirements and uncertainties are not easily addressed using traditional planning means. As a result, Reclamation planners must revise their planning approaches to account for these potentially significant but uncertain changes. This study will address the following research question: How should Reclamation planning processes incorporate new methods for decisionmaking under uncertainty (DMU) to address future uncertainties? Different Reclamation planning activities will benefit differently from the application of DMU methods. This study will therefore first evaluate ways in which current planning activities could be enhanced through the use of DMU methods. Second, it will develop customized training materials that will enable Reclamation planners to implement these new methods. These materials will include case studies that provide templates for analysis that will increase the impact of the training and subsequent use of the new methods.

Need and Benefit

As future water uncertainties and risks increase across the west, the need for Reclamation to thoroughly address these risks in their planning activities becomes more urgent. While Reclamation has made recent strides in using DMU methods in select cases, no universal guidance has been developed nor have training courses been developed that are applicable tailored to and across Reclamation planning activities been developed. The key benefit of investing in the proposed methodological development and training of this work would be the improved decisionmaking that would be realized from a more full adoption of DMU methodologies across Reclamation. This project is designed to facilitate this uptake outcome by systematically evaluating and the range of different decisionmaking contexts and then designing training materials specific tailored to the wide range of decision different types of applications at Reclamation. In this way, this effort can reach across Reclamation efficiently, but do so in an efficient manner. We expect that subsequent planning efforts could save between $10,000 and $50,000 through more efficient planning.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Please contact research@usbr.gov about research products related to this project.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17