Fletcher, S., Lickley, M., & Strzepek, K. (2019). Learning about climate change uncertainty enables flexible water infrastructure planning. Nature Communications, 10(1), 1782.
Water resources planning requires decision-making about infrastructure development under uncertainty in future regional climate conditions. However, uncertainty in climate change projections will evolve over the 100-year lifetime of a dam as new climate observations become available. Flexible strategies in which infrastructure is proactively designed to be changed in the future have the potential to meet water supply needs without expensive over-building. Evaluating tradeoffs between flexible and traditional static planning approaches requires extension of current paradigms for planning under climate change uncertainty which do not assess opportunities to reduce uncertainty in the future. We develop a new planning framework that assesses the potential to learn about regional climate change over time and therefore evaluates the appropriateness of flexible approaches today. We demonstrate it on a reservoir planning problem in Mombasa, Kenya. This approach identifies opportunities to reliably use incremental approaches, enabling adaptation investments to reach more vulnerable communities with fewer resources.