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Adapting to a Changing Colorado River

Adapting to a Changing Colorado River: Making Future Water Deliveries More Reliable Through Robust Management Strategies

David G. Groves
Jordan R. Fischbach
Evan Bloom
Debra Knopman
Ryan Keefe
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 98
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  • Book Info
    Adapting to a Changing Colorado River
    Book Description:

    The 2012 Colorado River Basin Study evaluated the resiliency of the Colorado River system over the next 50 years to climate change and other factors, and then compared different options and strategies for ensuring successful management of the river’s resources. This report describes RAND’s contribution to this study. It focuses on the Robust Decision Making methodologies used to identify vulnerabilities and compare portfolios of options.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8481-1
    Subjects: Physics, Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  9. Glossary of Selected Terms
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  10. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Colorado River is the single most important source of water in the southwestern United States, providing water and power for nearly 40 million people and water to irrigate more than five million acres of farmland across seven states and for 22 Native American tribes (National Research Council, 2007; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation [Reclamation], 2012h). The River supports billions of dollars of economic activity—irrigating 15 percent of U.S. crops, for example—and is also the lifeline for two dozen National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and Recreation Areas (Reclamation, 2012h).

    The Colorado River system is made up of the River itself,...

  11. CHAPTER TWO Long-Term Water Planning and Management Under Uncertainty
    (pp. 9-14)

    In this section, we discuss the overarching approach used to address the deep uncertainty surrounding long-term water planning and management that Reclamation and the Basin States face. This provides the foundation for the discussion in Chapter Three about the specific approach used to develop robust management strategies for the Colorado River Basin.

    Although the flows on the Colorado River can vary substantially from year to year or decade by decade, conditions over the coming century could change in ways that differ significantly from what the region has experienced over the last hundred years. In addition, there are new elements of...

  12. CHAPTER THREE Developing Robust Management Strategies for the Colorado River Basin
    (pp. 15-30)

    Reclamation and the Basin States will face many challenges managing the Colorado River over the coming decades. Uncertainty about future conditions, the plethora of different and sometimes-competing objectives, and the diversity of options for addressing potential supply and demand imbalances all complicate long-term planning. In January 2010, the Basin Study began to address these challenges by taking a scenario-planning approach to consider how changes in supply and demand might affect future imbalances. With RAND’s involvement starting in January 2012, this approach was expanded to include many elements of RDM to help structure the analysis of options and strategies to alleviate...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR Future Vulnerabilities to Colorado Basin Water Deliveries
    (pp. 31-42)

    There is substantial uncertainty about future conditions in the Colorado River Basin. As noted in Chapter One, demand for water from the River is expected to increase in both the Upper and Lower Basins, but projected rates of demand growth vary widely. Future streamflow conditions could resemble what we have observed over the last century or what we can infer about the more distant past, but simulations taking into account a changing climate suggest that permanent shifts in future supply are possible.

    Given the wide range of outcomes possible across the scenarios considered in this study and discussed in Chapter...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE Reducing Vulnerabilities Through New Management Options
    (pp. 43-54)

    The vulnerabilities identified and described in Chapter Four represent significant threats to the successful management of the Colorado River. The analysis shows that if no changes are made—that is, if the current management approach continues—there are many plausible futures in which Upper and Lower Basin objectives would not be met.

    The Basin Study developed four different portfolios and evaluated how they could improve outcomes. The portfolios, discussed in Chapter Three, were defined to be dynamic. This means that the simulation model is programmed to implement options only if the simulated Basin conditions warrant them. Taking advantage of this...

  15. CHAPTER SIX Implementing a Robust, Adaptive Strategy for the Colorado River Basin
    (pp. 55-58)

    The Basin Study examined how a wide range of water-management options, when implemented as part of different dynamic portfolios, could reduce the Colorado River Basin’s vulnerabilities to changing and uncertain future conditions. It does not, however, recommend a specific management strategy. Instead, the Basin Study presents key trade-offs among portfolios in terms of costs and vulnerability reduction, and highlights which options are most needed and when. The report concludes by describing a range of near-term steps to be undertaken to move toward development and implementation of a broader investment strategy for the Basin.

    As described in Chapter Five, a predefined...

  16. APPENDIX A Vulnerability Analysis Example and Additional Results
    (pp. 59-64)
  17. APPENDIX B Basin Study Options Included in the Portfolios
    (pp. 65-66)
  18. References
    (pp. 67-70)