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.

  • Flooding in Northumberland, Virginia, on June 11, 2021. Photo by National Weather Service

    Developing Future Projected Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) Curves: Technical Report

    Jul 9, 2021

    To support stormwater managers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Virginia in adapting to climate change, this study updated intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) curves, a common tool used for stormwater infrastructure design, to reflect future climate changes.

  • The Hoover Dam on the Colorado River on the border of Arizona and Nevada, photo by stryjek / Adobe Stock

    Water Planning for the Uncertain Future

    Mar 8, 2021

    Recent climatic shifts likely will continue to affect water resources management in significant but uncertain ways. This tool provides information about decisionmaking under deep uncertainty methods—specifically, Robust Decision Making—through five case studies.

  • Flooding in Pittsburgh,  photo by Artem S/Getty Images

    How Can Green Infrastructure Help to Manage Rainfall in an Urban Watershed?

    Oct 29, 2020

    Cities across the United States are struggling to effectively manage stormwater. This study shows how the challenges of increasing volumes of stormwater in a complex urban environment can be addressed by a mix of solutions.

  • Traffic barriers with a sign reading "Road Closed High Water" on the roadside near Washington Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Jordan Fischbach / RAND Corporation

    Managing Heavy Rainfall with Green Infrastructure

    Oct 26, 2020

    Urban stormwater management is a growing challenge in many U.S. cities. An evaluation of Pittsburgh's Negley Run watershed, an urgent flood-risk challenge, shows investment in green stormwater infrastructure could reduce flooding and provide net positive economic benefits.

  • Developing a Robust Water Strategy for Monterrey, Mexico: Planning Support Tool

    Aug 9, 2019

    This interactive tool demonstrates the data and analysis developed in support of Fondo de Agua Metropolitano de Monterrey's Monterrey Water Plan for 2050.

  • Developing a Robust Water Strategy for Monterrey, Mexico

    Aug 9, 2019

    Mexico's third-largest metropolitan area, Monterrey, faces future water security challenges as the region grows. Analysis of long-term trends and vulnerabilities in water management shows a robust, adaptive water management strategy can meet current and future needs.

  • 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.