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Future Drinking Water Supply Depends on Interactions of Climate, Land Use, and Water Management

Photo of Water supply is likely to increase, though not uniformly across regions or utility systems. Utility decisions will interact with changes to water supply, and this research underscores the need to consider adaptive water management systems when planning for drinking water supplies. 

Water supply is likely to increase, though not uniformly across regions or utility systems. Utility decisions will interact with changes to water supply, and this research underscores the need to consider adaptive water management systems when planning for drinking water supplies.  Snapshot : Changes in climate and land use strongly shape water resource management, but understanding their joint impacts is extremely challenging. To reliably meet future drinking water demands, water utilities must understand potential impacts of climate and land use changes on water availability.This work underscores the need to consider system responses and outcomes when determining the impacts of hydrologic change on drinking water availability.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Vose, JamesCoulston, John W.
Research Location : Research Triangle Region, NC
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2020
Highlight ID : 1727

Summary

Climate and land use change strongly shape water resource management, but understanding their joint impacts is extremely challenging. USDA Forest Service esearchers used ecohydrologic modeling to generate watershed outflows under climate and land use change scenarios in central North Carolina. These results were used as drivers for models of decision-making by water utilities. Both land use and climate change are likely to increase water supply, the research suggests. However, water supply increases are not uniform across regions or management systems. Utility decisions interact with changes to water supply. Restrictions, water transfers, and other short-term decisions influence water supply, as do longer term investments in infrastructure. In some cases, utility decisions may offset the beneficial effects of additional water supply. Utility investments in infrastructure are sensitive to climate and land use changes. As a result, the timing and sequencing of infrastructure development can impact utility performance outcomes. This work underscores the need to consider adaptive water management system responses and outcomes when determining the impacts of hydrologic change on drinking water availability.