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.