Interannual to Decadal Climate Variability Information for Risk Assessment, Urban Water Policy, and Decision Support: Case Studies of Kansas City, Lincoln, and Great Falls Urban Areas within the Missouri River Basin
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Climate Program Office – Sectoral Applications Research Program; Sept. 2011 – August 2013
Vikram M. Mehta, CRCES
Norman Rosenberg, CRCES
Katherin Mendoza, CRCES
Cody L. Knutson, National Drought Mitigation Center, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jesse Aber, Montana Governor’s Drought Advisory Committee, Helena, Montana
Doug Kluck, NOAA, Kansas City, Missouri
Expert Advisory Committee:
Mike Jacobson; Manager, Great Falls Public Works Utility Plant; Great Falls, Montana
Jake Kandelin; Hydrologist, Montana DEQ Public Water Supply, Helena, Montana
Jerry Obrist; Chief Engineer of Water Works, Lincoln Water System, Lincoln, Nebraska
Tom Schrempp; Water One, Kansas City, Kansas
Andy Ensz; Water Modeler, Kansas Water Office, Topeka, Kansas
Bob Peters; Water Resource Engineer, Denver Water System, Denver, Colorado
Laurna Kaatz; Climate Scientist, Denver Water System, Denver, Colorado
Dr. Bruce Dvorak; Interim Director, UNL Water Center; and Professor, Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
Tim Felchle; Chief of Reservoir Operations, Bureau of Reclamation, Great Plains Region, Montana Area Office, Billings, Montana
We propose to undertake a systematic assessment of the effects of interannual to decadal climate variability on water security in three urban areas in the Missouri River Basin (MRB): the Greater Kansas City area, Lincoln, NE, and Great Falls, MT. Based on these case studies, we will develop a broad-scale survey of vulnerability of water security of other urban areas in the MRB and elsewhere to climate variability for future in-depth assessments. The scientific objectives of proposed research are: (1) To identify quantitative and qualitative impacts and indicators of interannual and decadal climate variability on water supply and demand (thus water security) in the three selected urban areas; (2) To characterize the potential vulnerability of municipalities across the MRB to interannual and decadal climate variability, and to assess potential adaptive responses; (3) To calibrate a hydrologic model against observations of stream flow and ground water recharge for use in anticipating the impacts of various scenarios of future interannual and decadal climate variability in decision support systems; and (4) To identify ways in which information on interannual and decadal climate variability in the MRB can be incorporated into urban water policy, decision support, and management systems. These scientific objectives will be addressed under the hypothesis, based on our previous research, that decadal climate variability (DCV) phenomena are influential in urban water supply and possibly in demand also, and that it may be possible to use timely DCV information for risk reduction in urban water security if we understand how urban water security is affected by DCV and what DCV information is needed by urban water managers. The proposed research will be guided by advisors drawn from water agencies in the study areas.
The information developed from the three case studies will provide a means of factoring climate variability information into current and future water policy- and decision-making support systems in these and other urban areas. Although the scope of the proposed project is limited to three urban areas in the MRB, we will plan and execute the project and communicate its results to water management professionals in several ways, including via a guidebook, so that the lessons from this project can be applied in other urban areas within, as well as outside, the MRB. The proposed research is consistent with the FY2011 CSI-Water Program’s focus area of climate-related impacts on urban water resource planning. Specifically, the proposed research will identify and assess key vulnerabilities of the selected urban areas’ water security to interannual to decadal climate variability. It will also identify and assess ways in which adaptive responses to climate variability can be implemented.
In addition to publication of results from the proposed research in peer-reviewed papers, our newsletters the Missouri Basin Climateer and DroughtScape, reports, and Web sites, we will also provide briefings to urban water policy-makers and managers, NOAA program managers, and NOAA climate service scientists. Additionally, we will participate in meetings of regional and national water organizations to disseminate results of this project.
The overarching objective of this project is to identify and assess key vulnerabilities of the selected (Great Falls, Montana; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas) urban areas’ water security to interannual to decadal climate variability; and to identify and assess ways in which adaptive responses to climate variability can be implemented. Specific objectives of the project are to: (1) To identify quantitative and qualitative impacts and indicators of interannual and decadal climate variability on water supply and demand (thus water security) in the three selected urban areas; (2) To characterize the potential vulnerability of municipalities across the MRB to interannual and decadal climate variability, and to assess potential adaptive responses; (3) To calibrate a hydrologic model against observations of stream flow and ground water recharge for use in anticipating the impacts of various scenarios of future interannual and decadal climate variability in decision support systems; and (4) To identify ways in which information on interannual and decadal climate variability in the MRB can be incorporated into urban water policy, decision support, and management systems.
During drought, there are significant increases in water demand and voluntary or mandatory water restrictions have to be applied; (2) During wet periods, there are significant decreases in water demand and increases in water rates charged to customers; (3) 33-50% water systems use longer term climate outlooks for planning future water storage needs, expanded distribution systems, justifying infrastructure investments, bringing on new water supplies, adjusting reservoir levels, scheduling personnel, making budget projections, implementing water restrictions, and initiating public information campaigns for water conservation; (4) Over 40% of the respondents are likely to use 1- to 2- year climate outlooks for making budget projections, justifying infrastructure investments, implementing water restrictions, and informing the public on water conservation; (5) 20-25% are likely to use 1- to 2- year climate outlooks for adjusting reservoir levels or planning expanded distribution systems; (6) The most beneficial information for decision-making is seasonal and 1- to 2- year outlooks of above- or below- normal precipitation and temperature.
Thus, this project’s major results are:
- Substantial impacts of interannual to decadal climate variability on urban water security were found in the three case-study areas of various sizes.
- Impacts were found on supply, demand, and access; degree of impacts depends on location with respect to water source, size of supply need, and effectiveness of conservation measures.
- Municipal water demand is clearly affected by precipitation and temperature.
- Reasonable success was achieved in predicting probabilities of future climate impacts on water several seasons in advance, based on past data on phases of DCV, and impacts on local precipitation and temperature in the case-study areas.
- SWAT forced with hydro-met. anomalies shows substantial sensitivity of water yields to DCV.
- There is good agreement between observed water consumption and other associated variables in Great Falls and Lincoln, and SWAT-simulated water variables.
- It is possible to predict climate variability impacts on urban water security with SWAT, given skillful climate prediction.
- Water system managers are interested in using climate information in their decision-making process if such information is available.