Recommendations for Water Resources Management under Changing Climate

  • • Long-term planning for water resources management heavily depends on reliable estimates of water availability in space and time based on future climate change projections. This requires evaluations of potential climate change scenarios and suitability of an appropriate GCM model and downscaling procedures before the projections can be used for assessments of changes in water availability in the future.
  • • Short-term planning for water resources management will require approaches that consider forecast-informed operations that rely on seasonal forecasts and consideration of climate variability. Forecasts of temporal lengths of the coupled oceanic and atmospheric oscillation phases are essential for planning purposes. Adaptive short-term operation of water resource systems conditioned on seasonal forecasts of water availability is possible and should be implemented.
  • • Water resources management models should adopt approaches to address uncertainties in future projections of climate, and a trade-off between long- and shortterm modifications to operating rules for hydrosystems is needed. Rules that can be referred to as compromise climate change-sensitive operating policies are required.
  • • Hydrosystems cannot be managed based on a single or multiple objectives but rather on developing approaches that consider the nexus between multiple sectors that influence the operations of hydrosystems that are impacted by changing climate.
  • • Data collection efforts need to be improved to assess the ongoing and emerging impacts of climate change on hydrosystems that need to be operated sustainably.
  • • Climate change-sensitive water resources management should not only focus on water but also on evaluating the impacts on ecosystems, water quality in streams and natural bodies, and social, economic, and urban systems with an emphasis on food, health, water, energy, and several other important sectors.
  • • Considering the uncertainties associated with the projections of future climate based on climate change models, dynamic simulation models to replicate system behavior (i.e., operations) and to assess resiliency, reliability, and vulnerability of systems are needed. New metrics need to be developed to assess the level of service (LOS) provided by different hydrosystems.
  • • Optimal operations of hydrosystems as part of water resources management should also consider objectives such as low flow improvements, sediment management, flow restoration downstream of reservoirs to mimic natural flows as much as possible, and water quality management and impacts of climate change on all hydro-environmental variables.
  • • Forecast informed reservoir operation (FIRO) approach has gained attention in the U.S. for improving flood-control reservoirs based on the use of quantitative precipitation forecasts for adaptive short-term or real-time operation.
  • • Concepts of probabilistic analytical approaches that consider inter-event precipitation storm characteristics are recommended for urban stormwater management.
  • • Ensemble streamflow forecasting approaches are appropriate to develop multiple scenarios of inputs to models that simulate operations to address issues related to input and any other uncertainties.


This chapter provided a brief overview of hydrological design and water resources management and how the approaches are evolving to consider precipitation extremes. Recent efforts in addressing hydrologic design and water management in the context of climate change in the U.S. are documented. General recommendations for climate change-sensitive, sustainable hydrologic design and robust water resources management are provided.


AMO Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

AMS Annual Maximum Series

AO Arctic Oscillation

CONUS Conterminous United States

CREAT Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool

CRWU Creating Resilient Water Utilities

DCD Downscaling Comparison Derivation

DDF Depth Duration Frequency

ENSO El Nino Southern Oscillation

FDOT Florida Department of Transportation

FIRO Forecast Informed Reservoir Operation

GCM General Circulation Model

GCRA Global Change Research Act

Gl Green Infrastructure

IDF Intensity Duration Frequency

IETD Inter-Event Time Definition

IOD Indian Ocean Dipole

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

LID Low Impact Development

LOS Level of Service

NAO North Atlantic Oscillation

NCA National Climate Assessment

NCDC National Climatic Data Centre

NCEI National Centres for Environmental Information

NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NRCS Natural Resources Conservation Service

NWS National Weather Service

PDO Pacific Decadal Oscillation

PDS Partial Duration Series

PFA Precipitation Frequency Analysis

PFDS Precipitation Frequency Data Server

PMP Probable Maximum Precipitation

QPE Quantitative Precipitation Estimate

RCM Regional Climate Model

SCS Soil Conservation Service

SR Spearman's Rho

USACE United States Army Corps of Engineers

USEPA United States Environmental Protection Agency

USGCRP United States Global Change Research Program

USHCN United States Historical Climatology Network

WG Weather Generator

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