Communicating uncertainty management in long-term forecasts: resolving water managers' conceptual obstacles

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 11:30 AM
Room C210 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Latham J. Stack, Syntectic International, LLC, Portland, OR; and M. H. Simpson, J. S. Gruber, T. L. Moore, L. Yetka, M. Anderson, J. Rhoades, L. Eberhart, J. S. Gulliver, J. B. Smith, and T. Mamayek

The utilization of long-term climate forecasts for water resource management is a function of technical, conceptual, economic, and political factors. Developing sufficiently reliable technical information to drive local infrastructure adaptation can resolve certain conceptual obstacles, for example, that uncertainty in long-term forecasts precludes adaptation. Although this information can support adaptation once a community decides to act, water managers report that implementation is currently often driven by the emergence of political will in response to either a local “climate champion”, or media coverage of extreme events. In this dynamic the quality of technical information is important in a supportive role, but the availability of this information does not itself initiate adaptation.

We present results from stakeholder outreach studies at four sites in coastal and rural New England, and urban and rural Midwest. These characterize vulnerability, uncertainty, required system capacity, adaptation tactics, cost analysis, flood damage avoidance, and stakeholder outreach, in the adaptation of stormwater systems to long-term climate projections of extreme storms. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of local-scale adaptation; reveal features in existing civil infrastructure that both facilitate and hinder adaptation; provide tangible information on risk to enable valid cost/benefit decisions; and provide stakeholders with practical, actionable information to support decision-making.