Integrating climate impacts in water resource planning and management


White, K.D., Vaddey, S.V., Hamlet, A.F., Cohen, S.J., Neilsen, D., Taylor, W. 2006. Integrating climate impacts in water resource planning and management. In M. Davies (ed.) and J.E. Zurfelt, Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering, Current Practices in Cold Regions Engineering, Orono, Maine, July 23-26, 2006, Reston, Virginia: American Society of Civil Engineering.


Water resource managers are faced with increasingly complex issues arising from large-scale environmental changes due to climate dynamics. Current water resources planning and management procedures do not address the effects of climate impacts or the fragmentation in water resources management caused by balancing competing water uses. This is particularly true for transboundary watersheds in cold regions, where the effects of climate variability and long-term environmental impacts on extreme hydrological events (flood and drought) have been recognized for a number of years, yet are not accounted for in water management planning or policy. We recognize that the considerable uncertainties that do exist in global climate modeling are partially responsible for the lack of comprehensive planning that includes climate impacts. However, temperature-related effects of climate variability that affect floods and droughts in particular are quite predictable. These impacts should be considered in planning new projects and in the evaluation of existing projects. This paper presents an example where climate impacts can be considered to develop drought criteria in a transboundary situation, and suggests the development of policies to enable climate impacts as an integral component in planning and operations functions. However, implementation of water management plans at the basin level may be severely hampered by jurisdictional fragmentation.