An Integrated Modeling and Decision Framework to Evaluate Adaptation Strategies for Sustainable Drinking Water utility management under drought and climate change

EPA Grant Number: R835865
Title: An Integrated Modeling and Decision Framework to Evaluate Adaptation Strategies for Sustainable Drinking Water utility management under drought and climate change
Investigators: Ozekin, Kenan , Kasprzyk, Joseph Robert , Livneh, Benjamin , Rajagopalan, Balaji , Rosario-Ortiz, Fernando , Summers, R. Scott
Institution: Water Research Foundation , University of Colorado at Boulder
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018 (Extended to August 31, 2019)
Project Amount: $1,250,000
RFA: National Priorities: Systems-Based Strategies to Improve The Nation’s Ability to Plan And Respond to Water Scarcity and Drought Due to Climate Change (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water


Drought due to climate change and other extreme events such as wildfire and floods challenge drinking water utilities’ ability to treat water to meet regulatory and public health protection goals, with turbidity and disinfection byproducts (DBPs) control as the critical water quality (WQ) issues. The objectives of the research are to: (1) understand the flow and sediment generation from water supply watersheds in response to scenarios of hydro-climatological extremes and natural hazards, (2) understand the mobilization and transport of organic matter and sediments, and in some cases nutrients through the watershed and eventually to the water treatment plant (WTP), (3) develop source water thresholds for turbidity and DBP precursors based on finished water regulatory constraints and using stream WQ data with extreme value theory predict WQ threshold exceedances, and (4) evaluate a suite of adaptation and operation strategies (e.g., watershed management, wild fire mitigation, WTP modifications) along with their economic, societal and policy implications - with multi-objective optimization and multi-criteria analysis tools.


  1. Use the following to predict the water quality at the WTP influent:
    1. develop an integrated stochastic-physical modeling system capable of realistically projecting hydrologic responses to drought yield water quantity and WQ,
    2. use watershed model to only predict quantity and then utilize local relationships between water quantity and WQ and
    3. use regression models to relate local WQ parameters to historic climate (precipitation & temperature) and land surface variables (vegetation index, drought indices) without using stream flow data.
  2. For each WQ parameter of interest at a specific WTP, develop the WQ threshold values above which major WTP modifications are required. Then using statistical methods of extreme values, predict probability of WQ threshold exceedences under different climate scenarios, and
  3. Using input from several utilities, develop an integrated decision framework for water utility management to evaluate sustainable adaptation strategies under drought and climate change.

Expected Results:

Working with the utilities an integrated framework will be developed to help understand the variability of key water quality parameters and their threshold exceedances and, a decision tool for evaluating adaptation strategies. The experimental insights, statistical tools for modeling threshold exceedances, state of the art watershed model to simulate flow and sediment scenarios and a decision support tool - all provide unique capability to utility managers in quantifying the risks of relevant climate extremes and natural hazards impacting water quantity, quality and subsequent water treatment challenges.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 40 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

sediments, turbidity, organic matter, DBPs, hydroclimate extremes, watershed modeling, drought, water quantity, multi-objective and multi-criteria analysis;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report