Mainstreaming resilience science, approaches, and tools in the water resources sector

By Homero Paltan and Diego Juan Rodriguez

Over the last few years, Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) methodologies and approaches have gained popularity to identify and address uncertainties which may affect the water sector. These uncertainties have ranged from climate change, demographic and demand shifts, or situations where stakeholders cannot agree in just one future. Yet, while the scientific and technical benefits of applying DMDU reasoning in the water sector have been importantly acknowledged, various practical challenges still exist to mainstream them and make them fully part of the decision-making process.

Several of these challenges related to the increasing complexities and interrelations of human-socio-economic systems, transboundary conflicts, green-based solutions for water systems, financial mechanisms, distributional effects, and physical aspects such as water quality, groundwater, and others. Apart from the scientific innovations that addressing these issues require, efforts are still needed to enhance mechanisms to communicate highly technical procedures and outputs to practitioners and decision makers. Ultimately, assimilating these frameworks in simple and effective ways is the key to translate deep uncertainty into decision making processes.

As such, the objective of this session is to demonstrate how practitioners and specialists have been implementing these frameworks and methods, not only in developed countries but also in developing countries under conditions of data limitations and weak technical capacities. This applied framework will illustrate the tools and metrics used to describe various dimensions of resilience, evaluate tradeoffs, and communicate findings to decision makers sector.

The series of sessions and talks will be distributed during the duration of the conference:

On Day 1, Tania Lopez-Cantu will share an example on how robust decision-making approaches are used to incorporate watershed, land-use, and rainfall uncertainties in the planning and maintenance of stormwater systems of the road network of Pennsylvania. This analysis includes the evaluation of how state-owned culvers, and thus the original designs of highways and roads, respond to these uncertainties using GIS-based tools.  Then, a combination of both grey and green infrastructure interventions was used to provide low-regret resilient strategies.

Aman Majid will then present on how to develop and manage interlinked water and energy infrastructure, which is resilient, sustainable, and equitable. For this a regional application in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan will be presented in which an interactive water-energy model was developed with strong participation and use of local stakeholders.

Hyerean Yoo will illustrate the type of uncertainties that the water sector in a sensitive region, such as the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are facing. This exploration ranges from describing how climatic and no-climatic shocks such as the COVID19 crisis amplify existing challenges faced by the water sector and the livelihood in the of the island’s inhabitants. Within this context, Yoo will present how the concept of robustness can be used as a tool to increase and improve cooperation among stakeholders as common objectives are created with a vision towards water equity and economic development.

On Day 2, David Groves will show a new web portal used to introduce water managers to DMDU methods and techniques. This tool will be illustrated with examples from the Colorado River Basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, the Pecos/New Mexico River Basin, Southern California, and Monterrey, Mexico.

Julie Shortridge will then share findings on an analysis to illustrate how methodological and modeling choice impact results. She will illustrate how the various distributions used to generate possible futures and the choice of multi-criteria aggregation impact the identified vulnerabilities and thus strategies, and how model uncertainties can be used to inform research priorities. This talk will also suggest approaches which can be used to reduce the chances of undesirable outcomes. The Lake Tana, in Ethiopia is used here as case study.

Then, Tesse de Boer will share experiences on using DMDU approaches to better understand and manage transboundary catchments in the context of the Belt Road Initiative. This presentation will depict results from an assessment on future water security in the Ili-Balkhash basin, Kazakhastan under various climatic and water demand scenarios, under conditions of limited data availability.

Lastly, on Day 3, Bree Bennett will present a novel R-Package for scenario neutral climate impact assessments known as foreSIGHT. Amongst its advantages, the tool can be used to assess the current system performance and compare alternative management or design options for adaptive planning of a water system. The package is also developed with a sensible and user-friendly default stochastic model and optimisation settings.

Sarah Freeman will show how DMDU approaches and tools are being applied in highly complex and large-scale urban contexts. Freeman will present the results of the analysis of endogenous and exogenous uncertain drivers of vulnerability of Mexico City’s water supply system across temporal and jurisdictional scales. This includes a participatory process which engages multiple levels of actors and institutions to understand how uncertain factors affect the vulnerability of specified management objectives identified by stakeholders. In the last presentation, Nadia Seeteram will present a framework to evaluate human displacements equity outcomes under a context of sea level rise. By using Miami-Dade County in the state of Florida (USA) as a case, she will show how this framework could be used to distinguish population according to their displacement or mobility status as a function of the vulnerabilities of sea level rise and socio-economic conditions. Identifying these potential typologies of potential migration outcomes could then be used as the bases for climate adaptation and resilient decisions.

About this Blog Post:

This blog post is part of a series of posts contributed by the chairs of the 2020 DMDU Annual Meeting. For more information about the Annual Meeting, including registration, visit our website at We hope to (virtually) see you soon!

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