A perspective on nonstationarity and water management

Journal of the American Water Resources Association



This essay offers some perspectives on climate-related nonstationarity and water resources. Hydrologists must not lose sight of the many sources of nonstationarity, recognizing that many of them may be of much greater magnitude than those that may arise from climate change. It is paradoxical that statistical and deterministic approaches give us better insights about changes in mean conditions than about the tails of probability distributions, and yet the tails are very important to water management. Another paradox is that it is difficult to distinguish between long-term hydrologic persistence and trend. Using very long hydrologic records is helpful in mitigating this problem, but does not guarantee success. Empirical approaches, using long-term hydrologic records, should be an important part of the portfolio of research being applied to understand the hydrologic response to climate change. An example presented here shows very mixed results for trends in the size of the annual floods, with some strong clusters of positive trends and a strong cluster of negative trends. The potential for nonstationarity highlights the importance of the continuity of hydrologic records, the need for repeated analysis of the data as the time series grow, and the need for a well-trained cadre of scientists and engineers, ready to interpret the data and use those analyses to help adjust the management of our water resources.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A perspective on nonstationarity and water management
Series title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
DOI 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00539.x
Volume 47
Issue 3
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher American Water Resources Association
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
First page 436
Last page 446
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