Casey M. Brown
Innovative approaches are needed for improving water resources management and decisionmaking under hydroclimatic uncertainty. Presently, water resource management and infrastructure design relies on an assumption of stationarity, the notion that ‘natural systems fluctuate within an unchanging envelope of variability’ (Milly et al., 2008). However, the need to reexamine this paradigm has proliferated in recent literature due to alterations in the hydrologic landscape (Pahl-Wostl, 2007; Peel and Bloschl, 2011). Sustainable management of water resource systems is becoming increasingly difficult as a result of intensification of anthropogenic disturbances, channel modifications, land-cover changes, and future uncertainty in climate change and variability. As we transition from a static paradigm towards a more dynamic and uncertain hydrologic landscape, we must develop new methodologies to endure climate uncertainty and variability.
The use of hydrologic forecasts may be an important adaptation to a nonstationary climate in the future, as they can provide valuable insight into weather and climate variability (Pagano et al., 2001; Steinschneider and Brown, 2012). Additionally, seasonal hydrologic forecasts can provide information to water managers about future water availability, which may influence reservoiroperating policies. While seasonal forecasts serve as a potential tool for adaptively managing water systems, it is not clear that water resource systems are receptive to innovations such as the use of forecasts. This thesis presents two studies that evaluate decision-making frameworks under future climate uncertainty. The first study qualitatively evaluates the applicability of the diffusion of innovations framework (DOI) for assessing the adoption of seasonal hydrologic forecasts by water managers in the Connecticut River Basin (CRB). The second study presents a new decision framework for quantitatively evaluating adaptation alternatives that are robust to a wide range of possible climate changes.
Overall, this thesis attempts to better understand and improve upon traditional decision-making tools for water resources planning and management. The two studies together provide insight into the perceived challenges of water resource management in the Northeast US and present tools for addressing these challenges given future climate uncertainty. Findings from these studies can be used to help reform water resource management, overcoming barriers to innovation that allow for robust system adaptations.