5.1 Preparing for Water Management under a Changing Climate: Overview of Methods for Incorporating Future Climate Information into Planning Analyses [INVITED]

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 11:00 AM
611 (Washington State Convention Center)
Levi D. Brekke, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO

Water managers and planning practitioners face several common challenges in preparing for climate change: understanding how such change could affect water and environmental resources, bringing science and technology to bear on the needs of resource managers, and addressing the goals of agency programs and authorizations where climate change is a factor. The Bureau of Reclamation is facing such challenges, dealing with a growing demand for incorporating climate change information into general studies, basin assessments (e.g., WaterSMART, Secure Water Act - West Wide Risk Assessments), and project-specific environmental compliance (e.g., NEPA Environmental Impact Statements, ESA Biological Assessments).

Reclamation and other water management agencies have reacted in various ways to build capacity in using climate change information (e.g., formulating high-level guidance on level of analysis for various types of studies, investing in staff training on climate science, and piloting methods for utilizing future climate information into planning analyses). These developments, combined with the research community's continued efforts to introduce novel methods, have led to a multitude of interpretations and approaches for incorporating future climate information into water resources planning. Although there are benefits to having a proliferation of method ideas, the present situation also creates scoping uncertainty and confusion among managers tasked with assessing and communicating future climate implications to decision-makers. Moving forward, a fundamental question confronts the community: How do we build capacity within our planning practice to be able to feasibly, credibly, and consistently account for climate change within our water and environmental resource assessments?

This question has been a topic of focus within the federal interagency Change and Water Working Group (CCAWWG), comprised of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, USGS, USEPA Office of Water, and FEMA. This presentation is meant to raise awareness about this question on "best practices", offering an overview of methods that have been used in recent years (e.g., families of techniques discussed in USGS Circular 1331), summarizing their similarities and differences, and suggesting potential strengths and weaknesses relative to the various space and time scales of water management planning and decision-making.

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