A positive step in the face of uncertainty

Dec 14, 2010 by April Stolarz

Enormous uncertainty. These two words describe the condition of Phoenix's climate and water supply in the 21st century. Reservoirs have dipped to their lowest levels, continuous drought has plagued the state and forecasts for even warmer summers are predicted. Despite this uncertainty, professors at Arizona State University say there's no need to be fearful because positive impacts can be made.

ASU professors Patricia Gober and Craig Kirkwood working in conjunction with Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), which specializes in decision making under uncertainty, assessed the climate's affect on water shortage in Phoenix. Their results were published in the Dec. 14, 2010 issue of the Online Early Edition of the . A special section in this PNAS issue focuses on what the 21st century climate in the Southwest will mean in terms of sustainability.

Their paper, "Vulnerability assessment of climate-induced in Phoenix," discusses simulation modeling and the principles of decision making under uncertainty, looks at human vulnerability to environmental risks in terms of water shortages, looks at factors that affect water supply and provides numerous options for solutions.

Factors such as population growth, increased development, outdoor landscaping and more private pools all affect water supply. Gober and Kirkwood used an integrated , called WaterSim, to investigate the long-term consequences of policies that manage groundwater, growth and urban development in Phoenix.

Gober, who also is director of DCDC, said the goal is not to preach an agenda but to provide the science that supports better decision making.

"If you make this set of choices then you can continue to have a vibrant city even under dire . We have a smorgasbord of choices," Gober said. "You pick the menu items that are going to work best for your community."

Adapting to a shortage in water supply, Gober said is "not a one size fits all answer." The paper points out a few things people can do such as changing their type of landscape, limiting the number of pools in a community, building a higher density city and investing money to fix water leaks.

Gober, who also studies the relationship between energy and water in relation to the urban heat island, said, "just because we don't know what's going to happen with the climate, doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't do anything."

Researchers at DCDC, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, discuss risk management and strategies in terms of water supply.

"Uncertainty can paralyze decision making," Gober said. "But DCDC and this paper say, look we don't know what the future holds, but we can still do things to reduce risk and protect ourselves from water shortages."

Explore further: Education is key to climate adaptation

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers look at water-energy impacts of climate change

Dec 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Climate projections for the next 50 to 100 years forecast increasingly frequent severe droughts and heat waves across the American Southwest, sinking available water levels even as rising mercury drives up ...

How California Water Supply Could Survive Warming, Growth

Jun 15, 2006

In a new report, the UC Davis authors of the most sophisticated analysis of California's water management system say the system should be able to adapt to a warmer climate and a larger population, albeit at a significant ...

New model to assess urban water security

Dec 02, 2010

University of Adelaide water engineering researchers have developed a model to estimate potential urban water supply shortfalls under a range of climate change scenarios.

New water management tool may help ease effects of drought

Nov 12, 2009

Continued improvement of climate forecasts is resulting in better information about what rainfall and streamflow may look like months in advance. A researcher from North Carolina State University has developed an innovative ...

Mixed water portfolio helps thirsty cities

Jan 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Computer simulations for drought-prone areas reveal that when urban water planners combine three approaches of buying water -- permanent rights, options and leases -- the city avoids surplus water and high ...

Recommended for you

Education is key to climate adaptation

3 hours ago

Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation ...

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

12 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

US proposes stricter ozone limits

23 hours ago

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Wednesday to strengthen emission regulations for ozone, a smog-causing pollutant blamed for respiratory ailments affecting millions of Americans.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GSwift7
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
So, what exactly is the "positive step"?

Making a list of ways to conserve water is something a lot of 6th grade science classes are asked to do. I hardly think that qualifies as a positive step. Doing a rain dance or praying might be equally positive. What they need are actions a bit more concrete than making a list, which I'm sure someone else has already done. Most (maybe all?) communities around Pheonix are already doing things like they suggest here. This sounds suspiciously meaningless to me. What is the motivation here?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.