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Protecting water security in watershed systems: uncertainty in decision making

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Environmental Conservation
Project Description: 

Providing steady supplies of water, safe drinking water, and sustaining diverse, healthy aquatic ecosystems are objectives of watershed managers. Disruptions in water supplies and quality can have serious economic and ecological impacts. Addressing water security is becoming an important aspect of watershed management that can increase the sustainability and resiliency of watershed systems. Therefore the question arises: How can water managers plan for and maintain secure water supplies under uncertain conditions?

This study will examine threats to water security and their potential impacts on water quantity and quality in watershed systems. The stressors in this study are land use, extreme precipitation, and climate change. These have some frequency information from historic data (aleatory), which will be subject to fuzzy analysis to incorporate uncertainty. The study will also evaluate various mitigation strategies that communities and policy makers can consider to increase water security. Researchers will develop a baseline assessment of the watershed, followed by an examination of different scenarios of the three stressors to the system followed by an evaluation ofthe various water quantity and quality changes in response to these stressors and their potential water resource impacts. Information from these scenarios can inform watershed planning and management mitigation strategies at local, state and federal levels. This research will use modeling techniques that  include simulation, fuzzy analysis, stakeholder valuation, and decision making. The main goal of the proposed study is to evaluate the effects of land use, extreme precipitation, and climatic stressors on water security (quantity and quality) in the study watershed and potential mitigation opportunities at a river basin scale. The study will examine potential mitigation strategies to offset impacts to the watershed system. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), uncertainty analysis, simulation modeling, and a multiattribute decision framework will be used to evaluate and advance water security in watershed systems.