Building a Resilient Future Through Water: Special Issue of Water Security Journal

Water Security has published its Special Issue: Building Resilience through Water that offers a solutions-focused exploration of how to navigate our changing climate and uncertain future.

Dr Brian Richter and our very own Dr Fred Boltz edited the Special Issue with contributions from Prof Casey Brown and our PhD students Sarah Freeman and Alexa Bruce.

Take a look at the Resilience Shift’s blog for an overview of the Special Issue and the papers included, and Fred’s blog for his perspective on why water is a ‘master variable’ to solve for resilience in the modern era.


Hydrosystems Group awarded Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Award

Alec Bernstein and Don Park discussing H2Go at the Gates WFP Innovation Bootcamp

The Hydrosystems Group, led by Casey Brown was awarded a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorer grant, round 22.  The team will design and test H2Go, a water supply platform that uses digital technology to integrate vehicular water delivery with existing water infrastructure to provide affordable access to trucked safe drinking water for poor and vulnerable households. Existing public water infrastructure in low- and middle-income areas provides water at lower costs but are often poorly maintained and unable to meet the quality and quantity of water needed by rapidly growing cities. This has led to additional water being supplied directly to households in need by tankers owned by private companies. This is a valuable service but expensive, and water quality is often poor.

Through this award, several members of the team traveled to Munich Germany to incubate H2Go at a UNICEF-Gates-WFP Innovation Bootcamp.  The weeklong Bootcamp helped the team finalize details on implementation, and provided mentor training to advance the idea further.  The week culminated with a pitch to government and industry representatives.


Alec Bernstein pitching H2Go during pitch night of the Gates-WFP Innovation Bootcamp.

The group plans to develop the proof of concept for H2Go in Bangalore, India and Mexico City to leverage existing partnerships with private trucking companies and the city public utility.  In Bangalore, the team has partners on the ground with relevant experience and partnerships with 8 trucking companies, and 133 customers.  In Mexico City, they have a fully integrated digital simulation model of the water system, a system maintenance cost model, road network data, household water use data, and surveys of water vendor cost and pricing data. Using these connections and data, the group will design and develop a proof of concept which will identify priority delivery locations and cost-effective suppliers and supply routes for safe water. This prototype will be evaluated for financial viability, scalability to other regions, and cost effectiveness compared to extending the existing infrastructure.

Check out the Gates Foundation press release here.

Hydrosystems Group holds Freshwater Resilience by Design training at the University of Dar es Salaam

Hydrosystems leader Casey Brown and Tanzania project lead Alec Bernstein held a successful training workshop on the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on June 14, 2019.  The training was directed at students and faculty within the Civil Engineering/Water Resources department with the goal of increasing awareness of the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology for climate change risk assessment and investment prioritization.

Casey Brown presenting FRbD at the University of Dar es Salaam

Students represented 13 countries across southern Africa including: Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Burundi.

Also present were members of the World Bank Water Global Practice, and representatives from the Ministry of Water Department of Water Resources.

Casey Brown presenting FRbD at the University of Dar es Salaam

Hydrosystems Group co-produces California State Water Project climate change vulnerability assessment with Department of Water Resources

The Hydrosystems Group co-produced a “bottom-up”  climate change assessment in close collaboration with the California Department of Water Resources (Cal-DWR).  The team recently completed a decision scaling vulnerability assessment of the jointly operated California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

The results from this study are prominently showcased on the Cal-DWR website in story map form.

Dr. Katherine Schlef publishes study finding patterns associated with extreme floods

Hydrosystems Group alumni, Dr. Kathrine Schlef (now at Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science and Western New England University) is the lead author on a paper titled “Atmospheric Circulation Patterns Associated with Extreme United States Floods Identified via Machine Learning“.  The paper was recently published in Scientific Reports and finds that extreme floods across the continental United States are associated with four broad atmospheric patterns.  The analysis used a machine learning algorithm to place floods into groups based on the underlying atmospheric pattern happening at the time.  Four broad atmospheric patterns primarily associated with extreme floods include tropical moisture exports, tropical cyclones, low pressure systems, and melting snow.  Dr. Schelf additionally developed an interactive web tool with detailed information about extreme floods across the continental US.

Spatial Domain where each Pattern is Dominant. Source:

Casey Brown co-authors National Climate Assessment

Dr. Casey Brown, leader of the Hydrosystems Research Group, recently co-authored the water chapter of the latest National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive government report that warms how climate change threatens United States water security. Dr. Brown was one of 300 scientists who authored the report, meant to inform US leaders about how climate change affects land, water, and air across the country.

Dr. Brown was recently interviewed by Circle of Blue after the report was released, the day after Thanksgiving.  An excerpt from that interview:

Physical changes will dramatically reshape human life and the systems that support it. The report also underscores troubling knowledge gaps about how the projected increase in extreme storms and heat will affect the nation’s water supply.  “We don’t have a very good grasp as a nation what our water-related risks are,” Casey Brown told Circle of Blue. “We seem to keep learning this every time there’s a flood or drought.”

The water chapter emphasized three elements of human built infrastructure which will be impacted by climate change:
1) water quality and availability will shift
2) dams, levees, drainage systems, and other components of the nation’s infrastructure are aging and poorly designed for increased variability due to climate change
3) water managers will need to prepare for a broader set of climate stresses in the future.

A link to the full report can be found here (185MB – large file!)

Successful results workshops in Tanzania push the FRbD analysis into the final stage

Alec Bernstein, Tanzania team leader and Hydrosystems Group project manager, traveled to Tanzania on a mission in August 2018 to discuss results from the ongoing Freshwater Resilience by Design work with stakeholders.  Stakeholder workshops were held in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Arusha, and Iringa to discuss initial results and tradeoffs among competing water users in the Rufiji, Wami-Ruvu, and Pangani basins.

Presenting results to Wami-Ruvu stakeholders

Building off inception meetings held in January and April 2018 for the Wami-Ruvu, Pangani, and Rufiji basins as well as ongoing joint modeling efforts, the August 2018 mission discussed draft final results of the Freshwater Resilience by Design approach for the Wami-Ruvu and Rufiji basins, and initial results for the Pangani basin. This approach assesses the robustness and resilience of investment scenarios for a broad range of possible future scenarios based on resilience and robustness criteria (details on methodology included in a previous Aide Memoire).  The analysis highlights the tradeoffs among sectoral water users, and this mission provided an opportunity for stakeholders to understand the tradeoffs and begin to assess water management investments to manage these tradeoffs.

The Ministry of Water Department of Water Resources hosted four workshops to gain stakeholder feedback on the results, to finalize the analysis going forward and to deepen stakeholder understanding and utilization of the tool.  Each workshop contained a broad group of sectoral stakeholders from the public and private sector (energy, irrigation, agriculture, environment, and urban water supply).  The first workshop was held at the University of Dar es Salaam and focused on the Wami-Ruvu basin draft final results.  A national stakeholders workshop was held in Dodoma, and was introduced by the Ministry of Water Permanent Secretary.  During this workshop, draft final results from both the Wami-Ruvu and Rufiji basin were shown as well as initial results from the Pangani basin.  Representatives from all nine Tanzanian basins were in attendance and this provided an opportunity for water managers across the country to engage with the analysis in the three basins.  In collaboration with the Kilimanjaro Water Stewardship Platform, initial results were presented to the Pangani basin stakeholders.  Since these results were in an initial state, additional results from the Wami-Ruvu basin were shown to provide context to the stakeholders on the potential of the analysis.  A preliminary list of management options and scenarios to assess was established in conjunction with the stakeholders and Pangani Basin Water Board technical team.  In Iringa, the team presented the draft final results to the stakeholders of the Rufiji basin.  Stakeholders during this discussion provided useful feedback on the results, and made recommendations for improvements to the modeling, especially related to data on agricultural land use.

Rich discussions were held in all workshops to expand the understanding of the analysis output in each basin, and its importance for resilient water allocation decision making.  Next steps for this analysis in each basin includes finalizing the model based on this mission’s workshop feedback, refining the scenario testing, and packaging final results.  Continued engagement through additional stakeholder workshops is anticipated on a following mission.  The Hydrosystems Group will also plan a training session for the BWBs and interested learning institutions (e.g., University of Dar es Salaam, University of Sokoine, Morogoro) to ensure that the Freshwater Resilience by Design methodology is well understood and can be scaled up to other basins in the future.

Alec and Rufiji BWB partner, David Munkyala


HRG Presents Initial Results on Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu basins and Begins Collaboration with Pangani basin in Tanzania

The Hydrosystems Research Group kicked off collaboration with the Pangani Basin during the most recent mission to Tanzania.  HRG members Alec Bernstein and Mariam Allam, along with World Bank staff and consultants traveled to Tanzania April 3 through 12 to participate in initial output presentations and to conduct inception meetings with the Pangani Basin Water Board (BWB) to advance the Freshwater Resilience by Design analytics work ongoing in the country.

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