Project Themes

We are engaged in a variety of projects with the underlying goal of improving human decision making for planning, design, and operation of water resources systems for a future of change.

Freshwater Resilience by Design

A resilient river basin is one where communities within a basin have options and use them to manage change, both sudden and gradual, while not undermining the long-term ability of the basin to thrive. The Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology utilizes a systematic process for evaluating investments with the aim of strengthening basin resilience.  The approach accounts for future climate variability and change and other deep uncertainties that affect the performance of investments in the water resources sector. The process adopts a bottom-up approach to risk assessment to account for uncertainties such as climate change, economic forecasts environmental risks, demographic risks, or political risk.  It uses a collaborative model building and stress testing process to identify investment combinations that perform well across a wide range of potential future conditions, as opposed to seeking solutions that are optimal in expected conditions but fragile to conditions deviating from the expected.  The result is an investment road map for achieving water-related development goals that is robust and can withstand uncertainties of the future.

The four steps of the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology employed by the Hydrosystems Group

Climate Risk Assessment and Management in Infrastructure Systems

There is widespread and well-warranted concern that society is ill-equipped to manage the risks that climate poses, especially in developing countries.  Human-hydrologic systems and water infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to climate variability and change. How should we quantify the risks of climate change to hydrologic systems and infrastructure?  Can we design our water infrastructure to be adaptive to changing climate conditions and resilient to climate surprises?  Can we apply innovations in hydroclimatologic monitoring and forecasting, and information and communication technology (ICT) to manage the residual risks that infrastructure cannot?

Decision Making and Risk

Advances in hydrologic and climate monitoring and forecasting provides decision makers with unprecedented information upon which decisions can be based.  However, the information is often unfamiliar to decision makers in source and formation and also accompanied by uncertainty.  Traditional decision systems were not designed to accommodate the new sources of information.  Therefore, there is typically a large gap between the potential benefits of scientific advances in hydrological and climate sciences and what is actually achieved.  We have developed a process called decision scaling which is designed to tailor hydrologic and climate information so that it suits the needs of decision makers. This is a starting point for managing the risks associated climate variability and change and toward the adoption of innovations to improve their uptake in human-hydrologic systems.

Sustainability in Human-Hydrologic Systems

Our goal is to understand and characterize human-hydrologic systems and how they respond to climate, demographic, land use and institutional change.  This area of research is also called hydromorphology.  The understanding produced through this scientific analysis is  used to model the response of human-hydrologic systems to possible interventions for sustainability, whether policy or physically-based.  The approach is inherently multi-disciplinary and our research group actively seeks collaboration with similarly interested individuals.

 

Highlighted projects:

Resilient Water Supply to Mexico City and all Dependent Communities

Developing a water supply plan for a metropolis like Mexico City involves analyzing diverse demand and supply side options.


Assessing Climate Risks to the Niger River Basin Investment Program

Testing a river system’s vulnerabilities to climate change and other change factors is crucial to identifying potential investments.


Projections of Flood Risk Conditioned on Large-Scale Climate Processes

Understanding flooding projections is critical to help limit the destruction of property and loss of life and helps build flood resilience.  We are developing a two-part methodology to create flood projections in the Ohio River and in West Africa.


Relating Flood Perceptions of Mitigation Behavior in Burkina Faso, West Africa

A society’s perceptions of floods is important to develop and implement mitigation measures.  This study will yield valuable insights to the relationship between floods and people in developing countries in West Africa.


Climate Guidance Planning for the International Joint Commission

Transboundary basins require coordinated efforts to effectively manage risks associated with a changing world.  We are developing a climate guidance planning framework for transboundary watersheds between the United States and Canada with the IJC.


Improved Reservoir Operations for the Ecosystem Health in the Connecticut River Basin

Maintaining ecosystem health is important to a healthy natural environment, and we work with The Nature Conservancy to improve reservoir operations in the Connecticut River to account for aquatic flora and fauna.


Adaptive Management Planning for the International Upper Great Lakes Study

A sound regulation plan to control flow between the Great Lakes has important consequences for navigation, shipping, recreation, hydropower production, and ecosystem health.  We developed an adaptive management framework for the regulation plan to improve system resilience to future uncertainties.