HRG conducts successful stakeholder workshops in Tanzania

The Hydrosystems Research Group traveled to Tanzania to conduct stakeholder workshops in the Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu basins to advance the ongoing Freshwater Resilience by Design work in the country.  The mission team consisted of Alec Bernstein and Jonathan Lala (consultant) and a World Bank team of DC and Dar es Salaam based Water Resources Management Specialists.  The mission team worked closely with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MOWI) and Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu Basin Water Boards (BWBs) to arrange logistics and convene stakeholders for these meetings.  The project mission commenced on Thursday January 18th in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania in the Wami-Ruvu basin, continued to Iringa in the Rufiji Basin, and concluded in Dar es Salaam on January 24th.

Alec Bernstein presenting the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology to the Rufiji basin stakeholders.

Workshops for the Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu basins were held with members of MOWI, the BWBs, and key stakeholders representing a diverse group of sectors with water interests in the basin.  The workshops consisted of a background presentation on the freshwater design methodology followed by breakout sessions.  The breakout sessions were centered around four themes of discussion: 1) Issues in the basin related to water resources, 2) future unknowns and uncertainties in the basin, 3) metrics to determine what a successful basin looks like and 4) out-of-the-box options to mitigate issues.

Stakeholder engagement workshop breakout session

The discussions were very productive, particularly in highlighting problems these stakeholders have with current water management practices within each basin.  More effective water management was a strong underlying theme among possible solutions; dams and other physical infrastructure were only one of many proposed solutions.

In each basin, the HRG also had an opportunity to meet with the technical modelers from each BWB.  These meetings were detail oriented and provided an opportunity to share modeling frameworks, data and fill in any missing gaps.

Participants in the Rufiji Basin stakeholder workshop

Following the mission, the HRG will host one member from each the Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu basins to Amherst for a week-long collaborative modeling working session in March.  This will encourage collaboration between the BWBs and build technical capacity for the Freshwater Resilience by Design framework in Tanzania.  The HRG will follow up with a mission in April to present preliminary results from these modeling efforts.

Taking a tour of resilient infrastructure in New Orleans

Submitted by Katherine Schlef, PhD student in the Hydrosystems Research Group

This year, after being held for nearly 50 years in San Francisco, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting was held New Orleans. This change gave me the unique opportunity to participate in a field trip, organized by AGU and led by Nathan Lott of the Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans, to look at new infrastructure that is part of the city’s goal to increase resilience to hurricanes after the devastation of Katrina in 2005.

The effects of Katrina can still be seen – as we drove away from the convention center, Nathan pointed out the still-abandoned Charity Hospital on the skyline and a shuttered school. On a personal note, my two mile walk from my Airbnb to the convention center passed several shuttered homes. But Nathan was quick to point out that flooding is not uncommon in the city (just this last summer, a power grid failure caused a pump failure that led to flooding in some regions) and our goal was to look at new resilience-oriented initiatives to address the problem (as a simple example, we passed a small WEFTEC service project bioswale next to city hall).

Out first stop was a demonstration plot next to pump station #3 – one of the many pump stations within the city that move water from drainage canals to outfall canals and eventually to Lake Pontchartrain. After Katrina, the Water Collaborative began buying abandoned house lots and turning them into informational sites about the city’s relationship with water with demonstrations of resilient approaches to infrastructure improvements – like collecting rainwater runoff from a roof into a bioswale.

Figure 1: (left) the canal bordering the demonstration plot which drains into (middle) pump station #3 and (left) part of the plot of land which will become the Mirabeau Water Garden.

According to Nathan, the city is at a transition point; in the past, most efforts were local-scale, but now, the city is investing in large infrastructure projects. The most prominent is the Gentilly Resilience District and the centerpiece is the Mirabeau Water Garden, our second stop. Formerly the site of a convent, the 25 acres, which now look like a bare park, will be turned into a combined park and stormwater management site with a pump station, bioswales and a retaining basin.

Our third stop was a new pump station, just three or four weeks from coming on-line, at the outlet of one of three outfall canals on Lake Pontchartrain. I learned on the tour that one reason Katrina was so devastating was that the pumps were not strong enough to pull water out of the city while withstanding at the same time storm surge from the lake caused by the wind. This new pump station can withstand up to 18 feet of storm surge while pumping water from the city, will be manned by crews 24/7 and can, in the case of an emergency, operate all five pumps continuously for five days. Once it comes online, the interim closure structure will be removed, as well as the upstream pumps within the city.

Figure 2: at the new pumping station (topleft) the pump bay, (topright) part of the interim closure structures, (bottomleft) the generator bay, (bottomright) the debris gates.

The city is completely located below sea level, and is enclosed by flood protection. I learned that early engineering to enable shipping into the city only increased its stormwater management problems. Because there are 90 river miles on the Mississippi between the city and the coast, Bayou St. John was expanded and dredged so that ships could enter via Lake Pontchartrain. Now however, ships have the technology to navigate the river, and the Bayou is simply another avenue for water to enter the city – so it has since been almost completely covered over.

Our next stop was the IHNC-Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, where we toured the newly completed sector and barge gate and learned about the extensive work by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Flood Protection Authority East to raise and armor the earthen levees around the city. Raising the levees helps address the major concern of subsidence due to pumping and dewatering, natural soil compaction, and possibly, fault activity. Armoring the levees addresses another major concern of damage from overtopping. The barrier we visited is constructed at the location of a wall failure; the contrast between the old and new is dramatic. We could also see in the distance the Bayou Bienvenue vertical liftgate and we learned about the 100 and 200 feet deep pilings that make up some of the barrier.

Figure 3: (left) on the sector gate looking northeast along the Intracoastal waterway away from the city – there is a barge at the tip of the gate entrance and the new wall is barely visible on the left side of the image, (middle) on the sector gate looking south towards the Bayou Bienvenue vertical liftgate which is on the horizon in the middle of the image, and (right) walking down from the sector gate where the old wall is on the left and the new and much taller wall is on the right.

Our final stop was at Common Ground Relief, an aid organization located in the lower 9th ward only a few blocks from the levee failure on the Intracoastal canal. As the sun was setting, we gazed at the new homes (many built on stilts) while the head of the organization talked to us about their efforts to work within communities to create resilience, rather than come from the outside and impose ideas.

Figure 4: One of the major canals within the city.

As we headed back to the convention center, I felt like I had seen so much – from small scale local organizations to large US Army Corps of Engineers projects. I was encouraged by the ways New Orleans is working to improve resilience, but the next large storm will be the true test of their efforts.

Hydrosystems Group attends 2017 AGU Fall Meeting

Ten members of the Hydrosystems Research Group attended the 2017 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting held December 11-15 in New Orleans.

HRG at AGU 2017

Hydrosystems Research Group members at AGU 2017 (from L to R: Hassaan Khan, Baptiste Francois, M. Umit Taner, David Rheinheimer, Katherine Schlef, Mariam Allam, Sungwook Wi, Sarah Freeman, Faranak Bedhazi (U. of Cincinnati), Chinedum Eluwa, and Casey Brown).

Chinedum Eluwa  presented a poster on Exploring Evidence of Land Surface Dynamics of River Basin Development in East Africa which explores the correlation of seasonal soil moisture and latent heat flux over currently dammed/irrigated areas on downwind precipitation in the East Africa region.

Chinedum and his poster at AGU 2017

Sungwook Wi presented a poster showing a Framework for Human-Hydrologic System Model Development Integrating Hydrology and Water Management: Application to the Cutzamala Water System in Mexico. This poster presents a general approach to developing computational models of human-hydrologic systems where human modification of hydrologic surface processes are significant or dominant. The integrated modeling framework enables evaluation and simulation of model errors throughout the river basin, including errors in representation of the human component processes and represents an initial step towards fuller understanding and prediction of the many and varied processes that determine the hydrologic fluxes and state variables in real river basins.

Katherine Schlef gave a talk on the Projections of Flood Risk using Credible Climate Signals in the Ohio River Basin where she shows future projections of flood risk created  by forcing a statistical model with projection of the teleconnections from general circulation models. She also compared the results using this method to the results of the traditional model chain that of using the historic trend.

Katherine presenting her research at AGU 2017.

Baptiste Francois gave a talk on Using Deep Learning to Assess Future Flood Magnitude and Frequency in the Semi-arid and Snowmelt-dominated Missouri River Headwater Catchments. In this talk he explored the utility of Deep Learning (DL) for assessing flood magnitude change under climate change through using multiple hidden layers within artificial neural networks (ANNs). He also compared ANN’s performance with outputs from two hydrological models of differing complexity (i.e. VIC, SAC-SMA) and evaluated the modeling capability of ANNs for three snow-dominated catchments that represent different flood regimes.

Hassan Khan presented a poster on The Effect of Climate Change and Transaction Costs on Performance of a Groundwater Market. In the poster he showed a developed multi-agent system model where individual benefits of each self-interested agent are maximized subject to bounds on irrigation requirements and water use permits. This economic model is coupled with a calibrated physically based groundwater model for the study region. He also showed that permitting farmers to trade results in increased economic benefits and reduced environmental violations but of course the benefits of trading are dependent on the total allocations and the resulting level of water demand. He also showed that high transaction costs can reduce the efficiency of the cap-and-trade system even below that of water quotas.

Hassaan discussing his poster with other participants at AGU 2017

Umit Taner gave a presentation on the Holistic Uncertainty Analysis in River Basin Modeling for Climate Vulnerability Assessment. In his presentation he showed a holistic framework that allows analysis of climate, hydrologic and water management uncertainty in water resources systems analysis with the aid of a water system model designed to integrate component models for hydrology processes and water management activities. He also demonstrated this in a case study for the St. Croix Basin located at border of United States and Canada.

Sarah Freeman presented a poster on Designing Freshwater Resilience for the Mexico City Metropolitan Area. In this poster the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) and the Cutzamala Water supply system were used to demonstrate a quantitative framework to evaluate investment strategies which seek resilience for the water supply system of MCMA. She also evaluated the best performing investment portfolios across different resilience performance metrics which encompass social equity, environmental and economic objectives using a multi-objective optimization and decisions under deep uncertainty approaches. Finally, she used novel data visualizations to translate complexities of the study results into actionable information for decision makers.


HRG presents at Hydrologic Risk in Hydropower Dominated Energy Systems Workshop in London

Alec Bernstein attended a workshop convened by the International Hydropower Conference, the World Bank, and the Nordic Development Bank on Hydrologic Risk in Hydropower Dominated Energy Systems in London, UK on November 30th  through December 1st.  The workshop’s geographic focus was Africa and the main objectives of this training were: (i) to present and discuss the best practices and the new trends internationally adopted in the management of the hydrologic risk in hydropower generation and (ii) inform the representatives from the African countries, potentially exposed, about the suitable mitigation measures and the available hedging mechanisms.

Although we have been seeing more and more hydro-financial risk mitigation strategies being prepared around the world, we have observed very little progress in Africa where a large potential for operations of this kind is available, including vast opportunities for private sector engagement.  A lot of work on climate change assessment and resilience analysis on African hydropower projects has been carried out so far but very few transactions to mitigate the financial risk from hydrologic variability have been really undertaken in Africa.

The workshop provided a great opportunity to learn from private practitioners and public organizations on hydropower insurance schemes for mitigating risk in the African context.  There were representatives from several African river basin organizations, hydropower authorities as well as the UK Met office, Private insurance companies and consulting firms.  There were also some other academic institutions present.  The workshop was productive for the HRG as the group continues working on a climate risk assessment on the Batoka Gorge HES in the Zambezi River in Southern Africa.  Several examples of insurance schemes and payout strategies were presented, and Alec presented the Decision Scaling approach to performing climate risk assessments on hydropower designs – Freshwater Resilience by Design.

Implementing Freshwater Resilience by Design in Tanzanian River Basins – Scoping Mission

The Hydrosystems Research Group has entered a partnership with the World Bank (WB) and the Government of Tanzania to demonstrate freshwater resilience principles in multiple river basins in Tanzania.  Group members Casey Brown and Alec Bernstein participated in a World Bank scoping mission from 19 September, 2017 through 27 September, 2017 to lay the framework and connect with partners in country.

Sunset in Iringa, Tanzania – home to the Rufiji Basin Water Board office.

The Group members traveled with the World Bank to Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Iringa, and Morogoro in Tanzania.  Casey Brown presented the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology to the Permanent Secretaries (PS) of the Ministry of Environment (MOE) in Dar es Salaam as well as the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MOWI), the Ministry of Natural Resources (MONR), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and a broader technical team within the Water Resources Department (WRD) of the MOWI in Dodoma.

The Great Ruaha River near Mbuyuni, Tanzania.

The mission team also met with the Rufiji Basin Water Board and Wami-Ruvu Basin Water Board (BWB) in Iringa and Morogoro, respectively.  The Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology was well received during these discussions with the Ministries, and the HRG was able to learn about ongoing activities by these organizations and the institutional frameworks that can assist with the implementation of the methodology in river basins in Tanzania.  Cross sectoral coordination from various ministries is necessary to ensure the water needs of all stakeholders are considered while setting objectives within basins.

Casey Brown introducing the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Dodoma, Tanzania.

There are three basins identified to pilot the design methodology in Tanzania: the Rufiji, Wami-Ruvu, and Pangani basins.  These basins have unique physical characteristics and socio-economic development patterns, and each presents a water resources challenge important to Tanzania’s development trajectory.

Alec Bernstein at the Msembe Ferry stream gauge station along the Great Ruaha River, Tanzania.  Note the hippos in the background enjoying one of the only pools in the Great Ruaha during the dry season.

Competing sectoral water demands and uncoordinated future economic development plans in each basin will intensify these water resources challenges.  Cross sectoral coordination from various sectors is necessary to ensure the water needs of all stakeholders are considered when allocating the finite available water.  Several basins in Tanzania currently have IWRMD plans, however, the majority of these plans are a laundry list of investments that requires prioritization to be effectively realized.  The Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology is a systematic process for evaluating and ranking investments singularly and in combination while accounting for future climate variability and change and other deep uncertainties that affect the performance of investments in water resources sector.  The results is an investment road map for achieving water-related development goals that is resilient to the uncertainties and surprises of the future.

Elephants crossing the floodplain of the Great Ruaha River. During the dry season, flows are low, and increased irrigation abstractions from upstream agriculture has increased the prevalence of zero-flow days in recent times.

Continued engagement with the Government of Tanzania and the World Bank will continue throughout the next year.  Check back on this site to learn more about the ongoing efforts in Tanzania.

Hydrosystems Group conducts a successful mission to Mexico City

The Hydrosystems Research Group sent members of its Freshwater Resilience team to Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico – CDMX) for meetings with partners to advance it’s work on ongoing efforts in the Valley of Mexico.

Plaza de la Constitución, Ciudad de Mexico

June 19th through 23rd were busy weeks for advancing Freshwater Resilience in the Valley of Mexico.  Casey Brown, Sarah Freeman, Patrick Ray, and Alec Bernstein traveled to Mexico to meet with partners at the World Bank and others, as well as participate in a workshop with the Lerma-Chapala Basin Commission.

Casey Brown Speaking at the Lerma-Chapala Basin June 20, 2017

The Hydrosystems Group was part of a workshop for collaborative management in the Lerma-Chapala Basin.  The Lerma Basin forms a crucial part of Mexico City’s overall water supply, and is one of two main inter-basin transfer projects.  Casey Brown presented on the group’s ongoing work for CDMX and led a discussion with water managers and basin stakeholders.

The Lerma workshop was just the start of a busy week for the Hydrosystems Group, who also met with the managers of SACMEX (Sistema de Aguas de la Ciudad de México) and CONAGUA to discuss results from modeling work on the Cutzamala water supply system and ongoing work on the urban water supply network within CDMX.  Managers were open and engaged in the group’s presentations and were helpful with data requests for specific system data held by these organizations.  The HRG members also met with researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to learn about the ongoing research in the city water balance.

Throughout the week, the HRG team worked closely with partners at the World Bank and Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities – CDMX office.  These partners are invaluable resources to the group and provide boots on the ground for continued engagement when the HRG is not present.

Throughout the week, it became apparent that the HRG will need to return to CDMX in the next few months to continue engagement with SACMEX and the Lerma Basin commission.  A small working group with SACMEX is crucial to develop appropriate metrics for success and to ensure that the HRG’s modeling framework aligns with SACMEX’s vision.  As the HRG embarks on modeling work in the Lerma basin, working closely with the Lerma Basin commission early on in the process is important to forge relationships with stakeholders and water users throughout the basin.  This collaboration is critical for information gathering and to ensure appropriate metrics are analyzed during the modeling process.

This mission was a success.  A busy week filled with meetings was a perfect catalyst to continue engagement in Mexico City during the summer months.  More specific meetings will be scheduled for the next few months to continue close collaboration with the partners in Mexico.

Hydrosystems Group conducts IJC Climate Change workshop

Hydrosystems Research Group members Casey Brown and Alec Bernstein held a workshop during the International Joint Commissions’ Annual Board Meeting in Washington D.C. on May 3rd.  The goal of the meeting was to present the Climate Change Guidance Framework developed by the HRG and to conduct a Global Cafe with Board members to solicit feedback on implementing the Guidance Framework.

The HRG will roll out the first step of the Framework (Organize) with each Board, and will take a deep dive with the St. Croix International Watershed Board.  Feedback from the Boards on the framework was very positive.  Many Board members from across North America brough local knowledge and perspective to the meeting and input from all Boards was encouraging for the success of the Guidance Framework.

The Hydrosystems Group will work with all Boards to implement Step One of the Guidance Framework – Organize.  The Group will work in depth with the St. Croix International Watershed Board to roll out all four steps of the Guidance Framework.  The Group will conduct workshops and hold meetings with members from all boards to carry out the Framework.

Katherine Schlef presents at Columbia IRI

The week of June 19th, Ph.D. candidate Katherine Schlef visited the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and the Water Center at Columbia University in New York. While there, Schlef presented to researchers, postdocs, graduate students, and interns and had valuable collaborative meetings. Schlef’s current research is developing long-term projections of the 100 year flood given the uncertainty associated with future climate. Her focus is on two case studies: the Ohio River basin in the American Midwest, and the Sahelian region of West Africa. She benefited greatly from the climate and statistical expertise at IRI and the Water Center, and looks forward to continuing collaborations.

Hydrosystems Research Group led World Bank Decision Tree Training at UMass was a Success

The trainers and attendees of the World Bank Decision Tree Framework workshop at UMass Amherst

The UMass Hydrosystems Group completed a week long World Bank Decision Tree Training on April 24th-28th for water managers and decision makers from around the globe.  The workshop featured participants from Kenya, Nepal, South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia, as well as World Bank staff.  The Decision Tree Framework is a four-phase assessment methodology developed to understand risk associated with climate change and their potential impacts on water infrastructure.

Luis Garcia of the World Bank introducing the training during the opening day.

It is common for major hydroelectric facilities, irrigation schemes, dams, and water supply systems to have 50 to 100 year lifespans.  This, coupled with emerging knowledge about long term behavior of the global climate system and changes in other non-climate factors, may affect water system performance in the future.  The goal of the workshop was to provide hands on practice utilizing the Decision Tree Framework for evaluating risks associated with climate change.

Participants listening to a presentation during the workshop

Participants were led through the steps of the Decision Tree Framework and spent many sessions throughout the week working collaboratively with other participants and trainers.  Using Microsoft Excel, R, OpenAgua, and other modeling tools, the workshop trainers led exercises in generating modeling tools for weather generation, hydrologic processes, systems analysis, and stress testing a system for an uncertain future.  Participants were eager to learn about the methods used for these different modeling tools, and many are bringing this new knowlege with th to assess climate risk in their home countries.

Participants working collaboratively during a training session on weather generation.

Earlier this week, the group took a field trip to the U.S. Geological Survey’s S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls and the Cabot Station hydroelectric facility and fishway. Fish passage over hydraulic structures is a critical component in the design to ensure species connectivity along a river above and below a facility. This experience allowed the training participants to see a working full-scale fish passage research facility.

The Hydrosystems Group members who were trainers during the week:  Casey Brown, Patrick Ray, Katherine Schlef, David Rheinheimer, and Alec Bernstein.