Water Infrastructure Planning Under Uncertain Climate Change: Risk and Robustness-Based Approaches

Track 4B: Improving Watershed Management
Friday, October 13, 2017, 10:00 am – 11:50 am

Julie Shortridge
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist
Department of Biological Systems Engineering
Virginia Tech

Climate change will likely have dramatic impacts on water resources, and there is increasing concern that some degree of proactive adaptation will be necessary to avoid negative impacts in the future. This is particularly true for physical water resources infrastructure due to the long time-horizons required for its design, construction, and operation. Ideally, climate adaptation decisions would be based on a risk assessment that quantified the relative probability of different projections, but a number of issues have limited the development and application of these approaches. Non-probabilistic methods based on robustness, rather than risk, are becoming a popular alternative, but can also lead to inconsistent results depending on the methodological approach used. This talk presents work that bridges risk and robustness-based approaches in a manner that takes advantage of multi-model probabilistic climate change projections, while still acknowledging their uncertainty. We demonstrate the method by assessing irrigation infrastructure planned for the Nile basin in Ethiopia, and discuss how these results could translate to regions like the mid-Atlantic.