Water Resources Planning in an Uncertain Future

Fresh water is an essential and scarce resource. Ensuring its appropriate use and availability for sanitation, drinking, manufacturing, leisure, recreation, and agriculture requires significant planning. Over the past decade, RAND has been working directly with water planners from agencies and utilities across the United States and internationally to help them address climate change and other long-term uncertain factors in their planning.

RAND has deployed novel methods that help planners to develop and evaluate water management strategies that are more robust to an uncertain future. For example, RAND CRC researchers worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado River Basin states to help evaluate conditions on the Colorado River across thousands 
of plausible futures and develop and compare strategies to address future vulnerabilities. The RAND team developed interactive visualization software to display results, compare options, and weigh final trade-offs with the Basin Study Team and its stakeholders.

  • A view of  downtown Pittsburgh, the Sixth Street Bridge, and the Allegheny River

    Robust Stormwater Management in the Pittsburgh Region

    Apr 24, 2017

    The city of Pittsburgh and its surrounding region face significant—and potentially growing—stormwater management challenges. Analysis can help better understand the system's vulnerabilities and identify solutions.

  •  Baotu Spring in Jinan City, Shandong, China

    RAND Releases Evaluation of the Jinan City Water Ecological Development Implementation Plan

    Mar 9, 2017

    The Jinan Municipal Water Resources Bureau, with support from the Shandong Provincial Department of Water Resources, asked RAND to evaluate potential effects of demand and climate uncertainties on investments recently undertaken according to the Jinan City Water Ecological Development Implementation Plan. The RAND research team, led by David Groves and Debra Knopman, also assessed the potential of new investments and management strategies to help Jinan meet its long-term water resources goals.

  • The Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona was built to provide hydroelectricity and flow regulation from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower

    Using High-Performance Computing to Support Water Resource Planning

    Aug 25, 2016

    Researchers from RAND and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used high-performance computer simulations to stress-test several water management strategies over many plausible future scenarios in near real time.

  • Commercial stores at the beach in Lima, Peru

    A Strategy for Implementing Lima's Long-Term Water Resources Master Plan

    Nov 11, 2015

    How can water resource agencies make smart investments to ensure long-term water reliability when the future is fraught with deep climate and economic uncertainty? This study helped SEDAPAL, the water utility serving Lima, Peru, answer this question by drawing on methods for decision making under deep uncertainty.

  • Pittsburgh skyline with Point State Park and the Allegheny River

    Resilient Stormwater Management in Allegheny County

    Oct 2, 2015

    The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Region faces major challenges in managing its water resources, and lacks key information about climate change and future vulnerability. A framework is needed to evaluate options and identify cost-effective solutions.

  • Culvert with a drop, with flowing water

    Robust Decisionmaking May Help EPA's National Water Plan Manage Climate and Other Uncertainties

    Sep 9, 2015

    Maintaining safe and reliable water supplies depends on timely investments in water treatment, storage, and delivery infrastructure. RAND undertook a project for the EPA to determine the utility of Robust Decision Making (RDM) methods for evaluating the agency's needs and priorities under the National Water Program.

  • Women and children collecting water from the unimproved water source of Asengo Community. Asengo Community, Kisumu, Kenya

    Enhancing the Climate Resilience of Africa's Infrastructure

    Apr 27, 2015

    Working with the World Bank, RAND researchers used robust decision methods to provide the first continent-wide evaluation of the potential effects of climate change on such investments. They also examined the potential impacts of climate change on five specific hydropower and irrigation projects.

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    Developing Robust Strategies for Climate Change and Other Risks: A Water Utility Framework

    Jan 26, 2015

    RAND researchers and collaborators present a comprehensive approach for water utilities to assess climate risks to their systems and evaluate adaptation strategies. The approach, based on Robust Decision Making (RDM) is demonstrated through pilot studies with two water utilities: Colorado Springs Utilities and New York City Department of Environmental Protection.