Ecological networks: Strategic allocation of water conservation incentives
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Climate change and growing human populations have worsened water scarcity in river basins around the world, exacerbating conflicts between human and environmental water needs. There is growing support for allocating water to environmental flows for ecosystems, but the consequences of failing to reserve enough water for human societal needs may be dire. Thus, a key water management challenge is to determine how to balance human and environmental water needs while remaining resilient to future droughts, which are stochastic. In this project, a multi-objective, multi-period, and stochastic mathematical model is developed to address the spatial and temporal dynamisms of water availability and improve sustainability and resilience in river basins. This model makes the best water withdrawal and water allocation decisions for all the interconnected reservoirs established over the network. We analyze the trade-off between the societal and ecological water satisfaction ratios at different reliability levels against hydrological uncertainties. Finally, we extend the model to include water conservation options and test it on a case problem, the Red River of the south-central United States. The results of the model determine the spatial and temporal prioritization of water reservoirs for water conservation. Our model is applicable to drought-prone river basins around the world where water managers seek to balance environmental and societal water needs while remaining resilient to unexpected fluctuations in water availability.