Natural Resources & Sustainability

Future climate change and population growth are expected to stress existing water resources in many regions around the world. To mitigate and adapt to future water-related issues that will arise from climate change, policymakers must develop and implement sustainable water resource strategies that address future global change on this resource.

Water Resource Variability, Availability, and Quality
In Bolivia and other parts of South America, water variability, availability, and quality are major problems and the additional stress on this resource is likely to exacerbate existing water-related issues and create new water-related crises and confrontations (see study area in Figure below). The list of current water related issues facing this region is significant, including: the lack of a comprehensive water policy; inadequate infrastructure; inefficient use of water in agriculture; pollution of rivers and lakes due to mining, industrial, and biologcial contamination; and deforestation and increased erosion.

With the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team of physical and social scientists, our lab is involved in developing a long-term water resource management strategy that can be implemented by local policymakers in Bolivia. The initial goal of this project is to develop a methodology for translating regional climate predictions into water resource predictions that can be effectively utilized in policy making. Our research plan includes the integration of regional climate modeling over South America, catchment-scale hydrological modeling, and assessment of policymaking processes and cultures in Bolivia. These activities will lead to the following deliverables:

  1. Regional-scale predictions of climate and hydrological variables (rainfall, evaporation, surface flow) for future climate change scenarios over tropical South America using a global and regional GCMs
  2. Catchment-scale predictions of the impact of climate change on river discharge (water availability) and drainage basin hydrology
  3. Policy guidelines, tailored to Bolivia, for mitigating and/or adapting to changes in water resources due to future climate change.

map
Relative change (%) in surface runoff for 2041-2060 using an ensemble of GCMs (Milly et al., 2005). Note that significant increases and decreases are predicted for South America. We propose to simulate the influence of climate change on water resources at a high resolution and couple this response to a hydrologic model. Our propsed regional climate model domain is outlined in black.