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.

  • An aerial view of Lima, Peru. Photo by antorti / Getty Images

    Preparing for Future Droughts in Lima, Peru

    May 17, 2019

    A rapidly growing population and expanding city will likely increase demand for water in Lima, Peru. This study evaluates the city's current drought management plan against future droughts and proposes augmentations.

  • An aerial image of Pittsburgh city showing the catchment area surrounding Washington Boulevard.

    Valuing the Resilience Benefits of Green Infrastructure in Pittsburgh

    Apr 26, 2019

    Urban stormwater management is a growing challenge in many cities, and green stormwater infrastructure can improve water quality and reduce flooding, while also providing new green space. This project assesses the benefits and costs of green infrastructure for two key watersheds in the Pittsburgh area.

  • An aerial view of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona. Photo by Jupiterimages / Getty Imges

    Robust Decision Making: Application to Water Planning and Climate Policy

    Apr 10, 2019

    Long-term water planning is increasingly challenging, and there are also large uncertainties faced by policymakers addressing global climate change. Methods for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) can be useful for addressing long-term policy challenges.

  • An aerial view of the San Francisco Bay delta, photo by Andrei / Adobe Stock

    Decision Support Tool for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Levees Investment Strategy

    Mar 7, 2019

    The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta faces complex and varied flood risks. Possible investments to mitigate these risks are numerous, and they will affect Delta risks differently. The decision support tool aided the Delta Stewardship Council in developing a Delta Levees Investment Strategy.

  • A screen capture from the Decision Support Tool for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Levee Investment Strategy

    Decision Support Tool for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Levee Investment Strategy

    Mar 7, 2019

    The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta plays a key role in the California water distribution system, but also faces complex and varied flood risks. The risk modeling and decision support tool informed the formulation of a Delta Levees Investment Strategy to mitigate risks.

  • Storm drain putflow, stormwater, water drainage, waste water or effluent

    Estimating Future Water Demand for San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District

    Dec 28, 2018

    Water resources management is becoming increasingly challenging in Southern California. The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District’s first step in a comprehensive evaluation to assess its demand projections. This evaluation may be of interest to water agencies in other locations addressing the impacts of drought, population growth, and climate uncertainty.

  • A Palestinian woman drags a cart loaded with water containers after filling them from a public tap in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 28, 2017

    How to Solve the Water Crisis in Gaza

    Sep 26, 2018

    Gaza has long had water and sanitation challenges, but today it's in a state of emergency. The crisis could be resolved through greater investment in water and power infrastructure as well as more water or electricity purchases. But political complications and other barriers remain.

  • Freeway ramps viewed from underneath, against a blue sky.

    Renewing America's Infrastructure: An Agenda for Federal Transportation and Water Policy

    Aug 21, 2018

    Improvements in Federal infrastructure investment are often focused on money: how to finance capital investment, operations, and maintenance. But also important is modernizing federal policy to support the mature and urban-centered economy of the United States—rather than the economy it had when most of the terms of federal engagement were set.