Climate Change Effects on Water Resources Management and Potential Adaptations for the Future
Sarah Null, Assistant Professor, Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate change, population growth, aging infrastructure, and changing societal values alter how water must be managed in the 21st Century. This talk summarizes recent research modeling hydroclimate change for urban, agricultural, and environmental water users and highlights potential adaptations. As snowmelt-dominated runoff shifts to rainfall-dominated runoff in mountain regions, streamflows peak in winter instead of spring. This affects irrigators and some municipal water users with season-dependent water rights, including the City and County of San Francisco, and water users in the Rio-Grande and South Platte River Compacts. Instream flows for environmental protection will likely be disproportionally reduced with climate change. Dam removal is also evaluated as a potential river restoration approach. Results quantify fish habitat gains from removing dams against water supply and hydropower production losses, highlighting the declining value of reservoir storage when systems are limited by precipitation. Improving water conveyance can sometimes substitute for water storage in storage-rich watersheds. Results are presented for California’s Tuolumne watershed, with some preliminary results for Utah. These findings suggest that hydroclimatic uncertainty can be partially accounted for with simple modifications to existing operating rules for reservoirs, though other approaches are also likely needed.
Sarah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University. She received her BA in economics from UCLA, and both her masters and PhD in geography at UC Davis. She worked as a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences for 3 years prior to coming to Utah State University. Sarah’s research interests include water resources systems analysis for people and ecosystems, climate change impacts and adaptations for water resources, stream temperature modeling and monitoring, and improving information-sharing between policy-makers, water managers, and researchers. Field studies, mathematical models, and systems analysis are methods she uses to improve understanding of systems and explore promising solutions to problems.