EGU GA 2011 Perspectives (7)

This year on the EGU General Assembly blog there will be guest posts from participants about their research and their impressions of sessions. These are personal points of view not EGU corporate views. If you would like to contribute a research or session viewpoint, please email us.

This perspective from the European Geosciences Union General Asembly 2011 is from Joe Kasprzyk, who is a a PhD candidate at Penn State University, USA. His research was presented in a talk in HS5.4 Advances in Modeling of Coupled Hydrologic-Socioeconomic Systems .

I am very happy I was able to attend EGU 2011 and am honoured to contribute this blog post. In this post, I’d like to briefly introduce my research and some emerging areas of focus for hydrological sciences and water management and then discuss the importance of researchers in my field attending the EGU meeting.

The goal of my research is to aid sustainable decision making within environmental systems using risk-based water management, which includes feedbacks between social, natural, and built systems. Currently this involves studies that use many-objective solution techniques to quantify the tradeoffs between conflicting objectives. An example of these conflicting objectives is in minimizing the cost of a water supply system while maximizing its reliability. The situation is more complicated when other objectives are considered, however, including minimizing surplus water for municipal use that can be considered a proxy for other regional uses. To aid in solving this problem, our research combines the solution tools with interactive visual analytics that can involve stakeholders in showing them the consequences of different policy and engineering decisions.

Using a case study of a water market in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, USA, we started by exploring the effects of adding market instruments on the city’s many objective tradeoffs [1], and then proposed a de Novo planning framework that adaptively introduces new problem learning in an iterative process [2]. My future research will address the Susquehanna River Basin to aid the sustainability of water for competing water uses of municipal supply, electricity generation, and environmental flows.

There is increasing concern over the impact of increasing populations, amplified hydrologic variability, and climate change on water management. Future research should continue to provide tools for addressing these challenges, and this will necessarily involve interactions with scientists in different fields and from varied regions. One relevant research question, for example, is how does the time scale of observing environmental changes affect the time scale of decision making processes? The set of preferences for decision makers now may not be the same as in the next generation, especially given the availability of new information within subsequent planning horizons. Another concern is incorporating diverse uses into economic frameworks, especially those for which it is difficult to provide a monetized value of utility. Modeling of ecosystem processes will help inform this decision-making process, but the large amount of uncertainty present may not be able to be fully reduced.

These challenges have a direct connection to the value of international meetings such as the EGU General Assembly, because scientists from across many disciplines can discuss research and ideas throughout the whole conference program. Beyond just interdisciplinary work, though, I find it enlightening that we can interact across national boundaries as well. The concept of governance is a central one to water management since this directly constrains the breadth of actions that can be taken to react to change. Data availability, stakeholder preferences, and regulatory environment can all vary from country to country and I have learned much about this here at the conference.

I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this blog, and I would be glad to interact with you if you have any questions through e-mail.

[1] Kasprzyk, J., Reed, P., Kirsch, B., Characklis, G. (2009) “Managing Population and Drought Risks Using Many-Objective Water Portfolio Planning Under Uncertainty” Water Resour. Res., 45, W12401, doi:10.1029/2009WR008121
[2] Kasprzyk, J., Reed, P., Characklis, G., Kirsch, B. (In Review) “Many Objective de Novo Water Supply Portfolio Planning Under Deep Uncertainty” Env. Mod. Soft.

Bárbara Ferreira is the Media and Communications Manager of the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the Union's communication activities, from coordinating the EGU newsletter to members and overseeing the blogging and social media activities of the organisation, to publishing press releases for journalists and organising press conferences. She has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.

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