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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.

Three Minute Thesis

Hydrosystems Group member Hassaan Khan is a finalist in the UMass Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®) this semester.  His research is on water markets to improve the efficiency of water systems in water scarce regions of the world.  He successfully breezed through the preliminary rounds, and he will compete in the finals on March 24th at 4:00pm.  The event is open to the public.

Check out the video, below, to get a 3 minute description of Hassaan’s research!

Upcoming Decision Tree Training at Africa 2017 Hydropower Conference

Dr. Casey Brown will be presenting a training session on the Decision Tree Framework during the Africa 2017 Hydropower Conference.  The conference will take place in Marrakech, Morocco on March 12th through March 16th.

The Decision Tree Framework is a robust decision scaling approach  that provides resource-limited project planners and program managers with a cost-effective and effort-efficient, scientifically defensible, repeatable, and clear method for demonstrating the robustness of a project to climate change. The framework adopts a “bottom-up” approach to risk assessment that aims at a thorough understanding of a project’s vulnerabilities to climate change in the context of other nonclimate uncertainties (for example, economic, environmental, demographic, or political). It helps to identify projects that perform well across a wide range of potential future climate conditions, as opposed to seeking solutions that are optimal in expected conditions but fragile to conditions deviating from the expected.

Economic Allocation of Groundwater (pt. 4)

by: HASSAAN F KHAN

In this final post on the series Economic Allocation of Groundwater, we’ll evaluate the tradeoff between economic gains and environmental performance in the Frenchman Creek Basin. How is environmental performance related to economic gains in the context of groundwater pumping? In the Frenchman Creek Basin, as with many other basins, streams are hydrologically connected to the groundwater. What that means is that flow in many streams and rivers is supplemented by groundwater (known as baseflow). With increased groundwater pumping, the groundwater level goes down, and reduces the amount of ‘baseflow’ in the rivers.

capntrade4

The figure below shows the tradeoff for three different types of groundwater management policies. Here, our metric for environmental performance is streamflow violation percentage, which is simply the percentage of occurrence when modeled streamflow is less than the streamflow targets at specific ecologically sensitive locations across the basin. The y-axis shows the streamflow violation percentage, while the x-axis represents the combined annual farmer profit.

There are four key results illustrated in this figure:

  • The black dot (in the top-right corner of the figure) shows the tradeoff when there is no management policy; every farmer is free to pump as much groundwater as he/she desires (let’s call it the free access policy). While the free access policy results in the highest economic benefits it also results in the least environmentally sustainable outcome. This is because in the absence of groundwater management, farmers act in their own interests to maximize their profits. The ‘costs’ of environmental degradation are socialized with groundwater. Since farmers don’t directly experience these costs, there is no incentive to use groundwater ‘sustainably’ if there are no regulations on groundwater use. In a free access system, these environmental costs accumulate over time and affect all groundwater users in the region (analogous to the concept of externalities).
  • We also see how the performance of a realistic water market compares to that of a realistic water market. The diamond at the bottom right corner of the figure shows the tradeoff when a ‘perfect’ water market is in place. This point signifies the most economic benefits that can be obtained on a system-wide level without any ecological damages. While it is nearly impossible to achieve this level of environmental efficiency, we see that a realistic water market (shown in the blue line) is closer to this ‘perfect’ outcome than a policy where groundwater quotas are imposed in the system (shown by the red line)
  • Allowing trading between agents leads to a lower streamflow violation for a given level of societal benefits because as the price of groundwater increases, less efficient farmers reduce their water usage and sell their permits to the more efficient farmers. Since now a greater proportion of water is being used by the more productive water users, crop production per unit of water used increases. So for a given level of water use, trading of water permits leads to lower environmental damages.
  • Increasing streamflow violations indicate a falling groundwater table resulting in higher cost of pumping groundwater. That raises the question: shouldn’t the higher pumping costs eventually force farmers to reduce their pumping? In this case, the answer is no. Because the pumping costs are low relative to the benefits of pumping, declining groundwater levels don’t impede depletion.

 

 

Hassaan F. Khan is a PhD Candidate in the Hydrosystems Research Group.  You can find him on Twitter @hasfkhan.