Risk, Robustness and Water Resources Planning Under Uncertainty (2018)

Risk-based water resources planning is based on the premise that water managers should
invest up to the point where the marginal benefit of risk reduction equals the marginal cost of achieving
that benefit. However, this cost-benefit approach may not guarantee robustness under uncertain future
conditions, for instance under climatic changes. In this paper, we expand risk-based decision analysis
to explore possible ways of enhancing robustness in engineered water resources systems under different
risk attitudes. Risk is measured as the expected annual cost of water use restrictions, while robustness
is interpreted in the decision-theoretic sense as the ability of a water resource system to maintain
performance—expressed as a tolerable risk of water use restrictions—under a wide range of possible
future conditions. Linking risk attitudes with robustness allows stakeholders to explicitly trade-off incremental
increases in robustness with investment costs for a given level of risk. We illustrate the framework
through a case study of London’s water supply system using state-of-the -art regional climate simulations
to inform the estimation of risk and robustness


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