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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Future drinking water supply depends on interactions of climate, land use, and water management

A segment of water pipeline running along a riverbank.
Drinking water supply is affected by climate, land use change. The decisions of water resource managers interact with these changes and in some cases, may offset beneficial effects of additional water supply. (U.S. Government Accountability Office photo)

Introduction

Changes in climate and land use strongly shape water resource management, but understanding their joint impacts is extremely challenging. In order to reliably meet future drinking water demands, water utilities must understand potential impacts of climate and land use changes on water availability. This work underscores the need to consider system responses and outcomes when determining the impacts of hydrologic change on drinking water availability.

Summary

Climate and land use change strongly shape water resource management, but understanding their joint impacts is extremely challenging. Researchers used ecohydrologic modeling to generate watershed outflows under climate and land use change scenarios in central North Carolina. These results were used as drivers for models of decision-making by water utilities.

Both land use and climate change are likely to increase water supply the research suggests. However, water supply increases are not uniform across regions or management systems.

Utility decisions interact with changes to water supply. Restrictions, water transfers, and other short-term decisions influence water supply, as do longer‐term investments in infrastructure. In some cases, utility decisions may offset the beneficial effects of additional water supply. Utility investments in infrastructure are sensitive to climate and land use changes. As a result, the timing and sequencing of infrastructure development can impact utility performance outcomes.

This work underscores the need to consider adaptive water management system responses and outcomes when determining the impacts of hydrologic change on drinking water availability.

Principal Investigators
James M. Vose, Project Leader (retired)
John Coulston, Project Leader/Supervisory Research Forester
RWU
4855 - Center for Integrated Forest Science
Strategic Program Areas
Inventory and Monitoring
Water, Air, and Soil
Publication
Accounting for Adaptive Water Supply Management When Quantifying Climate and Land Cover Change Vulnerability