Climate Change & Water Resources Adaptation: Decision Scaling & Integrated Eco-engineering Resilience

Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
N. LeRoy Poff, Colorado State University
John H. Matthews, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation
Associated Program: 

Climate change is rapidly altering the global water cycle, challenging society’s ability to sustainably manage water both for people (electricity, cities, agriculture) and for aquatic ecosystems and species. One of the most difficult needs for sustainable water management is understanding how to design dams or ecosystem management plans capable of working over many decades, even centuries, particularly when our understanding of future climate is highly uncertain at the scale of individual river basins. Further, regions where rapid new dam development is occurring often that lack a reliable historic record to guide sustainable water choices. The expertise that exists to address these challenges is fragmented between academics and field practitioners and between disciplines such as ecology, engineering, and hydrology.

We plan to develop a novel and timely strategy for sustainable water management by integrating engineering and ecological approaches to climate resilience. We will use “decision scaling,” an approach centered on stakeholder identification of key ecological and hydrological vulnerabilities to future climate shifts and on analysis of risk of exceeding thresholds of water infrastructure failure with evidence of different confidence levels. Integrating ecological and engineering cultures is essential to allow water managers and policy makers to evaluate explicit tradeoffs between economic development and hydro-ecological stewardship in making choices about designing, building, and operating water infrastructure in a genuinely sustainable fashion. We will use this tool to engage global and regional decision makers and institutions (governments agencies, development banks, NGOs) who are actively engaged in long-term sustainable water investment, management, and conservation.

Andrés Baeza-Castro, SESYNC
Natalie Beckman, U.S. Department of State
Eugene Brantly, RTI International
Casey Brown, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Ben Campbell, Millennium Challenge Corporation
Julian Doczi, Overseas Development Institute
Kathleen Dominique, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Luis Garcia, The World Bank
Kristin Gilroy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Ted Grantham, U.S. Geological Survey
Ana Gren, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Marjolijn Haasnoot, Deltares
Harvey Hill, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Kelly Hondula, SESYNC
Miroslav Honzák, Conservation International
Sebastian Hyzyk, European Investment Bank
Ad Jeuken, Deltares
Christine Lee, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Justine Leigh-Bell, Climate Bonds Initiative
Xianfu Lu, UN Climate Change Newsroom
Charlotte MacAlister, International Development Research Centre
Guillermo Mendoza, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Inter-American Development Bank
Anil Mishra, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
Rolf Olsen, U.S. Geological Survey
Charles Ortloff, University of Chicago
Margaret A. Palmer, SESYNC
Patrick Ray, University of Massachusetts
Diego Rodriguez, The World Bank
Aleix Serrat-Capdevila, University of Arizona
Caitlin Spence, University of Massachusetts
Eugene Stakhiv, Johns Hopkins University
Bruce Stewart, World Meteorological Organization
David Toll, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Marcus Wijnen, The World Bank
Rob Wilby, University of Loughborough
Alyssa Wiltse, OOSKAnews
Benjamin Zaitchik, Johns Hopkins University


Resource Title Brief Summary
Environmental flows and water governance: managing sustainable water uses Sep 01, 2013

Article published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling Sep 14, 2015

Article published in Nature Climate Change.

Managing Risk & Uncertainty for Water & the Environment Sep 14, 2015

Website intended to showcase a new way for identifying future water risks and then addressing them. First described is the approach called decision scaling, which developed within recent years from the engineering community. Next discussed is how long-term sustainability has to include ecosystems within built infrastructure. That approach is called eco-engineering decision scaling, or EEDS.

Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Collaborative Water Resources Planning for an Uncertain Future Oct 23, 2018

Report published by UNESCO. 

Shifting currents: Managing freshwater systems for ecological resilience in a changing climate Dec 14, 2019

Article published in Water Security.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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