Modeling how human institutions and infrastructure interact with the water cycle is essential to better understand the vulnerability, and resilience of water resources systems from the local to the global scale. This is especially true when investigating multi-sector, multi-actor responses to the effects of long-term changes and short-term shocks. It is also well recognized that uncertainty present throughout the modeling cycle (e.g., in data, functional relations, and model coupling approaches) limits our ability to trace the interactive dynamics of human-water systems, as well as to quantify their implications for management and planning. Systems with large numbers of diverse stakeholders further compound this challenge, as uncertain drivers and complex dynamics might have very disparate effects on water users.
The work presented is conducted through the Integrated Multisector Multiscale Modeling (IM3) Science Focus Area, which explores how human and natural systems co-evolve in response to change. Through this multi-year effort, we have developed exploratory modeling methods to better characterize how the uncertain human and natural drivers of water scarcity yield consequential vulnerabilities in institutionally complex, multi-sectoral systems. This talk will specifically present on a series of uncertainty characterization experiments performed in the Upper Colorado River Basin, a sub-basin of the Colorado with thousands of water users. These complementary and systematic experiments are aimed at understanding:
- How are various uncertain stressors (e.g., climate change, demand growth) affecting the diverse water users of this basin in terms of water shortage?
- What are the key drivers of this shortage for each user?
Methods and results from this work are used to address additional questions on the ability of adaptation to modulate the effects of these uncertain drivers, and on their compounding effects across spatial scales and through sectoral interactions.