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Among the many concerns associated with global climate change, the potential effects on water resources are frequently cited as the most worrisome. In contrast, those who manage water resources do not rate climatic change among their top planning and operational concerns. The difference in these views can be associated with how water managers operate their systems and the types of stresses, and the operative time horizons, that affect the Nation's water resources infrastructure. Climate, or more precisely weather, is an important variable in the management of water resources at daily to monthly time scales because water resources systems generally are operated on a daily basis. At decadal to centennial time scales, though, climate is much less important because (1) forecasts, particularly of regional precipitation, are extremely uncertain over such time periods, and (2) the magnitude of effects due to changes in climate on water resources is small relative to changes in other variables such as population, technology, economics, and environmental regulation. Thus, water management agencies find it difficult to justify changing design features or operating rules on the basis of simulated climatic change at the present time, especially given that reservoir-design criteria incorporate considerable buffering capacity for extreme meteorological and hydrological events.
Additional Publication Details
Managing the Nation's water in a changing climate
Journal of the American Water Resources Association