WSC-Category 3 Collaborative: America's Water-The Changing Landscape of Risk, Competing Demands and Climate
DESCRIPTION: Recent droughts in Texas, the Midwest and California have brought the increasing competition for water between agriculture, energy production, industry, human use and the environment into focus as a critical economic and sustainability issue for America. This project will assess the sustainability of water in America in the face of changing climate, new energy choices and technologies, economic and agricultural trends. It will explore how water dependent sectors affect and interact with the rest of the economy, and provide a conceptual framework to inform public and private decision making on water allocation, infrastructure development and regional investments in water intensive economic activities. Mathematical and statistical models will be developed that highlight water risks across the country, provide information on the trends of past and future water withdrawals and availability, and help identify where particular cropping patterns, energy development, and water infrastructure may result under a specific climate, economic and water allocation scenario, and how this configuration may perform during sustained periods of droughts and floods. The project will first assess the state of water use and how the variations in climate, energy development and economics over the last century have influenced changes in water use and its valuation across the continental USA. This assessment will look at changes in climate statistics, surface water availability and quality, pricing structure, water rights and compacts, supply augmentation and storage development, access to groundwater, energy costs, economic factors, conservation initiatives, and environmental concerns in the context of changes in water use patterns. The assessment will also measure of water risk as it relates to the geographic distribution of water use and supply, and the driving economic factors. The project will then develop an interactive modeling environment for envisioning the future evolution of water use and supply. This will consider the capacity expansion of water and energy infrastructure, potential re-allocation of cropping patterns, relative to climate, energy and economic scenarios, and prescribed water rights and allocation mechanisms and ecological needs over a 50 year or longer horizon. The project will evaluate possible market and policy-driven adaptation strategies for water sustainability at a national scale to climate, economic, and energy scenarios, while considering needs for investment in new infrastructure, conservation, and potential shifts in crops and energy use that may be induced by regional water supply constraints.
OUTCOMES: To address the initiative’s first objective, assessing America’s past and present water situation, the project team is:
- Developing a publicly available, integrated, demographic, agricultural, climate, hydraulic, energy and water rights database;
- Analyzing trends in US water consumption and supply, incorporating groundwater levels, reservoir storage, irrigated area, cropped area, crops, crop yields, crop market prices, interest rates, GDP, drought indices, national virtual water trade, energy prices and water rates among others;
- Conducting statistical/econometric modeling to see how changes in water use patterns correlate to changes in climate statistics, surface water availability and quality, pricing structure, water rights, storage, groundwater access, energy costs, economic factors, conservation initiatives and environmental concerns; what the variation of direct and indirect water costs is across the country, and how these relate to water source, quality and variability; and how the measure of water risk relates to the geographic distribution of water use and supply.
To address the second objective, the team has developed the America’s Water Analysis, Synthesis, and Heuristics (AWASH) model that connects water supply and demand to a wealth of sectors, dynamics, and decisions around water, energy, and food.
More information: http://water.columbia.edu/research-themes/americas-water/
Columbia Water Center's "America's Water Initiative"