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.

Hydrosystems Research Group Hosts Training for Group of International Water Managers at UMass Amherst

The Hydrosystems Research Group is leading a World Bank training session for international water managers this week.  There is a group of 13 engineers and managers from around the world completing a training on the decision tree framework for climate risk assessment.  The training session was recently highlighted in a UMass Amherst news release, shown below.  The participants have been very enthusiastic to learn these innovative methods for assessing climate risk in water infrastructure projects and will have a set of tools they can bring back and utilize in their home countries.

UMass Amherst Hosts Training for Group of International Water Managers

Water managers and trainers visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls.
Water managers and trainers visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls, MA.

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst is hosting a World Bank training workshop for water managers from developing countries April 24-28 where participants from six countries will learn about risks associated with climate change and their potential the long-term impacts on water infrastructure.

The training is being conducted by the the Hydrosystems Research Group of the department of civil and environmental engineering at UMass Amherst. There are 13 water managers attending the training along with four World Bank staff members. Participants from Kenya, Nepal, South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia and the U.S. will learn how climate change can affect hydropower facilities, dams and water supply systems. It is common for major infrastructure projects to be designed with an expected operating life of 50 or even 100 years. Emerging knowledge about the long-term behavior of the global climate system and changes in other non-climate factors that may affect water system performance means that water systems infrastructure planning is a process of decision making under uncertainty.

Casey Brown, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UMass Amherst, one of the organizers of the training, says this event shows the key role the university plays in preparing officials around the world for the future climate. “The engineering profession is at a change point. We need to design infrastructure to be resilient in a world of change. We have water planners from around the world here to learn how.”

The training workshop will provide background on the Decision Tree Framework, developed by Brown and Patrick Ray, former research professor at UMass Amherst and currently an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. 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.

Training sessions take place at the UMass Amherst Campus Center and will include sessions for participants to learn climate change science as well as hands-on sessions to develop modeling tools for evaluating water infrastructure systems. 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.

Decision Tree Training workshop at UMass Amherst: April 25th-28th, 2017

The Hydrosystems Research Group will be hosting a week long Decision Tree Framework training on April 25th through 28th on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The sessions will be focused on applying the Decision Tree Framework to address uncertainty in water resources planning and project design.  Participants will bring their own system information and data and will be guided through the decision tree process during the course of the week.  Training sessions will be conducted by Hydrosystems Group members Dr. Casey Brown, Dr. Patrick Ray, and Ms. Katherine Schelf.

The Decision Tree Framework

Anyone interested in attending should contact alec.bernstein@umass.edu for information and the application for the event as soon as possible.

Decision Tree Training at the Hydropower and Dams 2017: Africa Conference

Dr. Casey Brown and Dr. Patrick Ray conducted a World Bank training workshop on the Decision Tree Framework: A Climate Risk Assessment for Water Infrastructure at the Hydropower and Dams 2017: Africa conference in Marrakech, Morocco.  The training took place on March 12th and 13th, 2017 at the La Palmeraie Conference Centre in Marrakech, and the conference was March 14th-16th.

Dr. Brown presenting the Decision Tree Framework

The training was well attended by approximately 30 participants from universities, government agencies, consulting firms, and water & energy ministries from all across Africa.  This training was meant to be an introduction to the Decision Tree Framework, and many participants were enthusiastic to learn more about the framework and apply it on their own systems.

Dr. Patrick Ray presenting case studies using the Decision Tree Framework

A young engineer from the water ministry in Morocco responded that if the training had not been provided, his ministry would never have thought about screening projects for climate risk.  Hydrosystems group member Alec Bernstein attended the workshop and conference as a participant and engaged with many of the attendees of the training session; the young engineer’s response was typical for many participants of the sessions.

The crowd of enthusiastic participants during the Decision Tree Training workshop.

The Hydrosystems Research Group will be hosting a week long World Bank Decision Tree Training April 25th through 28th in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Anyone interested in attending should contact alec.bernstein@umass.edu for information and the application for the event.

 

 

 

February 2017 Mexico City Trip

by: SARAH FREEMAN

I had been in Mexico City for under 48 hours and about 8 of them had been spent in a car. I don’t think I even realized that I let out a sigh at the thought when I caught my taxi driver, Jose, grinning in the rear view mirror, “the pride of Mexico City,” he said. He was referring to the traffic. His comment was not sarcastic, nor was it cynical, but rather seemed to possess a genuine buoyancy.

Mexico City is a metropolis; its frenetic bustle and growth appear limitless. But while the city grows, it is also sinking. The latter is a result of an ongoing struggle to satisfy a growing demand for water which has led to over abstraction of their aquifer and the infamous subsidence of the city. Our team had traveled to Mexico City to kick off a new research initiative to investigate the very issue of how to provide for the water needs of Mexico City and the valley that surrounds it both now and into the future.

The system itself is very complex. While about 60% of the water for the city is pumped from over exploited aquifer, the remaining 40% is sourced from the surrounding watersheds at considerable cost and at times involve vexing politics. During our short visit we met with nine institutions involved in various aspects of the water provision puzzle. We listened to their characterizations of the issues they are facing. These issues range from losses in the distribution system (which represent around 40% of water that makes it to the city) to seemingly chronic budget issues. We also had the opportunity to see first-hand the Lerma system which is one of the local sources that provides over 10% of the city’s supply. The Lerma River itself has been reduced to a brown trickle running towards a system of lakes that were once home to large populations of migratory birds. These lakes have now been reduced to about 5% of their original surface area.

Taking in the severity and complexity of the water challenges faced by Mexico City and the Valley of Mexico generally, it’s hard to remain optimistic. I depart the city on the way to the airport with my mind racing about all of these issues. As I look out the window of my taxi I see rain water collection barrels on roofs and water trucks (pipas) delivering water to areas without access and instead of thinking of the challenges I’m reminded of Jose’s positive spirit. This is a place where challenges can be tackled with innovation and optimism.

Sarah Freeman is a PhD candidate in the Hydrosystems Research Group and is leading the Group’s Mexico City freshwater initiative.