Decision Making Methods for Water Resources Management Under Deep Uncertainty
Roach, Thomas Peter
Date: 12 October 2016
University of Exeter
EngD in Water Engineering
Substantial anthropogenic change of the Earth’s climate is modifying patterns of rainfall, river flow, glacial melt and groundwater recharge rates across the planet, undermining many of the stationarity assumptions upon which water resources infrastructure has been historically managed. This hydrological uncertainty is creating a ...
Substantial anthropogenic change of the Earth’s climate is modifying patterns of rainfall, river flow, glacial melt and groundwater recharge rates across the planet, undermining many of the stationarity assumptions upon which water resources infrastructure has been historically managed. This hydrological uncertainty is creating a potentially vast range of possible futures that could threaten the dependability of vital regional water supplies. This, combined with increased urbanisation and rapidly growing regional populations, is putting pressures on finite water resources. One of the greatest international challenges facing decision makers in the water industry is the increasing influences of these “deep” climate change and population growth uncertainties affecting the long-term balance of supply and demand and necessitating the need for adaptive action. Water companies and utilities worldwide are now under pressure to modernise their management frameworks and approaches to decision making in order to identify more sustainable and cost-effective water management adaptations that are reliable in the face of uncertainty. The aim of this thesis is to compare and contrast a range of existing Decision Making Methods (DMMs) for possible application to Water Resources Management (WRM) problems, critically analyse on real-life case studies their suitability for handling uncertainties relating to climate change and population growth and then use the knowledge generated this way to develop a new, resilience-based WRM planning methodology. This involves a critical evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of a range of methods and metrics developed to improve on current engineering practice, to ultimately compile a list of suitable recommendations for a future framework for WRM adaptation planning under deep uncertainty. This thesis contributes to the growing vital research and literature in this area in several distinct ways. Firstly, it qualitatively reviews a range of DMMs for potential application to WRM adaptation problems using a set of developed criteria. Secondly, it quantitatively assesses two promising and contrasting DMMs on two suitable real-world case studies to compare highlighted aspects derived from the qualitative review and evaluate the adaptation outputs on a practical engineering level. Thirdly, it develops and reviews a range of new potential performance metrics that could be used to quantitatively define system resilience to help answer the water industries question of how best to build in more resilience in future water resource adaptation planning. This leads to the creation and testing of a novel resilience driven methodology for optimal water resource planning, combining optimal aspects derived from the quantitative case study work with the optimal metric derived from the resilience metric investigation. Ultimately, based on the results obtained, a list of suitable recommendations is compiled on how to improve the existing methodologies for future WRM planning under deep uncertainty. These recommendations include the incorporation of more complex simulation models into the planning process, utilisation of multi-objective optimisation algorithms, improved uncertainty characterisation and assessments, an explicit robustness examination and the incorporation of additional performance metrics to increase the clarity of the strategy assessment process.
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