Climate Change May Increase Water Management Challenges

Effective management of water supplies requires fairly precise information about current and expected future water availability. However, the complex processes involved in the hydrologic cycle prevent simplistic conclusions about how to manage water supplies based on climate model projections. In many regions, the uncertainties associated with projections of rainfall and runoff coupled with uncertainties in other changes, such as changes in land use and land cover, leads to cascading uncertainties about changes in freshwater resources. These uncertainties are compounded by uncertainties in the technical capacity to store, manage, and conserve water resources, which in turn are shaped by socioeconomic, cultural, institutional, and behavioral issues that determine the use of water. Two clear messages that emerge from research on water management is that water managers will need to make decisions while facing persistent and sometimes considerable uncertainty, and that improved decision-support tools would be helpful for planning purposes.

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