A Framework to Assess the Coupled Dynamics of Natural and Human Landscape Changes in the Context of Water Resource Management

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Ana P. Barros, Duke University, Durham, NC; and M. Jeuland and L. E. L. Lowman

Proper water governance is a primary concern world-wide to ensure access to freshwater necessary for human life and well-being. The concept of sustainable water management, however, extends this concept of water governance to incorporate not only human but also environmental demands for water. And yet, proper consideration of the hydro-connectivities linking allocation policies to water availability and vice versa requires a more thorough incorporation of the physical mechanisms controlling water exchanges between the land, vegetation and atmosphere, into predictive tools than has previously been possible. In order to better inform future policies regarding water allocation and infrastructure development, and to more thoroughly explore the implications of changes in water availability for these, a coupled eco-hydrologic and hydro-economic framework is being developed. This modeling framework combines two key components: a) hydro-connectivities and nonlinear feedbacks among changes in land use and land cover (LULC), climate, and human intervention in water allocation processes; and b) valuation of the costs and benefits of adaptation and management policies developed independently of, or in response to, these changes. The framework is implemented within the French Broad River basin which contains the headwaters of the Tennessee River in North Carolina. This basin is an exemplary region to apply this coupled eco-hydrologic and hydro-economic framework because of its susceptibility to change (recent high population and water demand growth; LULC change; location in the mid-latitudes which are predicted to experience more frequent and intense extreme events due to climate change). While the initial application of the model addresses urban encroachment in a headwater basin, the general framework will be applicable for assessing alternative water management strategies under various climate change and human development scenarios.