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Grantee Research Project Results

NCER Grantee Research Project Results

Balancing the Economic and Ecological Sustainability of Water Supply in the Susquehanna River Basin Under Climate Change

EPA Grant Number: FP917162
Title: Balancing the Economic and Ecological Sustainability of Water Supply in the Susquehanna River Basin Under Climate Change
Investigators: Kasprzyk, Joseph Robert
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Science & Technology for Sustainability: Environmental Behavior & Decision Making

Description:

Objective:

The Susquehanna River Basin, which spans portions of Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland, contributes services with an economic value of $6 to $8 billion per year. Groundwater resources play an important role in the region’s water management but are not adequately modeled in existing management tools. The project will contribute to our understanding of how groundwater supply and water management are vulnerable to climate change and increasing water demands. The results of the project will lead to a better balance between competing uses of water resources to support the potentially conflicting objectives of sustainable economic development and ecological health while helping water systems stay resilient to future changes.

Synopsis
The Susquehanna River Basin contributes services with an economic value of $6 to $8 billion per year. Groundwater resources play an important role in the region’s water management but are not adequately modeled in existing tools. Current regional water management also lacks the ability to respond to climate and land use change for long-term planning. The project will meet these challenges and contribute to sustainable water management in the Susquehanna River Basin.

Approach:

The proposed project will utilize multiobjective evolutionary algorithms (MOEAs) to discover key water management tradeoffs for the Susquehanna River Basin. A set of evolving problem formulations that explicitly consider multiple planning objectives and that can flexibly incorporate new problem insights will be generated for the Susquehanna River Basin. The framework will include groundwater modeling innovations under a range of coherent climate and land use scenarios. The scenarios will seek to clarify how climate change and increased water demand risks may potentially impact the Susquehanna River Basin’s water supplies.

Expected Results:

By building an improved water management framework for the Susquehanna River Basin, we will be able to test two major hypotheses that can lend insight into the vulnerabilities and future challenges for water management in this region. The first is that regional groundwater dynamics are modified by climate and land use change, with shorter winter-spring recharge periods and longer summer-fall drought periods. The implication of this hypothesis is that future changes can expose water users to heightened risk because of lower groundwater availability. The second hypothesis is that current decision-making strategies in the Basin reflect over-confidence in short term water planning heuristics that expose the system to long-term risks, including severe cost increases, ecological risks, and supply failures. The decision-making framework that will be created in this work will give water managers an improved ability to protect the water supply system from these risks while also seeking to maximize the ecological health of the Susquehanna’s river systems.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
The project seeks to lower risks to the diverse users of the Susquehanna River Basin’s water supply system: municipal supply, water for electricity generation, commercial use, and ecological systems. The change projections created in this work will aid long-term planning for the Basin’s water managers, protecting the region’s water supplies from risks due to climate change and growing population demands.

Supplemental Keywords:

multiobjective decision support, water supply, climate change, land use change, environmental economics, sustainability,

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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