Full Title

Supporting Climate-Adapted Water Resource Planning for Extreme Events: Piloting an approach for the Skagit and Dungeness Watersheds

Project Overview

In the Puget Sound region, climate change is altering the water cycle and water resource conditions, and the most disruptive effects are linked to extreme events such as low summer streamflow conditions and winter floods. Competing water uses will become increasingly important in the face of extreme events. Planning for extreme flooding events in coastal floodplains and estuaries will become more challenging with increased intensities of extreme rain events, shifts in run-off timing, and rising sea levels, while summer droughts challenge the agricultural and municipal services sectors and limit the quality and quantity of habitat native fish. This project addresses the most important water use issues for ecosystem sustainability and human resource needs. Through extensive stakeholder engagement and the development of critical water resource metrics as well as measures of fish habitat and human use, this project leverages existing climate, hydrological, and coastal model simulations to develop a visualization-based decision-support tool to support water resource planning for extreme events.


The project makes use of available information and outputs from numerical models for water movement and hydrologic conditions to generate water resource metrics under different climatic extremes for two sub-basins in the Puget Sound basin. The underlying information has been developed by the University of Washington and Oregon State University ( for the Columbia River Basin. The regional climate projections were sponsored by Pacific Northwest River Management Joint Operating Committee (RJMOC-II). The over project goal is achieved through the following elements:

  • Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement: Two local stakeholder workshops were held, in the Dungeness basin and in the Skagit basin, to identify water use measures/indices that are vulnerable to climate change and extreme events. These competing needs and associated metrics were considered collaboratively with the stakeholders in each basin. The project team presented modeling products on extreme events of climate change (see below) related to water use management that could be used to develop a decision-support tool for water resource managers.
  • Analysis of Model Outputs: The project team used the RJMOC-II climate data set to project future hydrology scenarios, including streamflow, snowpack, and other elements to simulate the balance of water in each basin. This dataset was chosen as it gives a more complete picture of the range among model outputs for water movement in the future.  Some of the issues explored include characterizing the uncertainty inherent in the data as explained through the impact of model calibration, the hydrologic model, the downscaling approach, global climate models, and a variety of greenhouse gas scenarios.

  • Analysis of Water Resource Metrics and Development of the Decision-Support Tool: The project team determined the best modeling and data analysis pathways enhancing climate change information to support decision-making, and to develop metrics appropriate for maintaining sustainable fish habitats and human uses. The team generated products that will interpret and translate the model simulations into accessible formats for local managers and planners addressing with extreme events. This was achieved with the use of multiple visualization platforms in selected stream locations and river reaches.
Depiction of concerns expressed by stakeholders in the Dungeness and Skagit subbasins in Puget Sound. Many of the concerns were common between the watersheds while others were specific to one or the other. Where the concerns differed, the size and development status of the watershed can explain some of the differences.


A web-based interactive decision-support tool was developed to display the projections, including the timing, duration, and magnitude of streamflow extremes at selected sites in the Skagit River and Dungeness River basins under different future climate scenarios.

The team also created a second Tableau tool, intended to serve as a reference when additional technical details are needed.

Key Personnel

  • Zhaoqing Yang (Principle Investigator), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Andrea Copping, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Nathalie Voisin, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Guillaume Mauger, University of Washington*
  • Ian Miller, Washington Sea Grant
  • Jude Apple, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Aimee Fullerton, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

With special thanks to Mikaela Freeman, Jonathan Whiting, Ning Sun, and Andrew Mahedy of PNNL.

* Indicates CIG Personnel or CIG Affiliate(s)


NOAA Climate Program Office (CPO), Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP), grant number NA16OAR4310125.


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