Mapping Water Resources, Allocation and Consumption in the Mills River Basin

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jared Hodes1, Marc A Jeuland2 and Ana Paula Barros1, (1)Duke University, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Durham, NC, United States, (2)Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy, Durham, NC, United States
Mountain basins and the headwaters of river basins along the foothills of major mountain ranges are undergoing rapid environmental change due to urban development, land acquisition by investors, population increase, and climate change. Classical water infrastructure in these regions is primarily designed to meet human water demand associated with agriculture, tourism, and economic development. Often overlooked and ignored is the fundamental interdependence of human water demand, ecosystem water demand, water rights and allocation, and water supply. A truly sustainable system for water resources takes into account ecosystem demand along with human infrastructure and economic demand, as well as the feedbacks that exist between them. Allocation policies need to take into account basin resilience that is the amount of stress the system can handle under varying future scenarios. Changes in stress on the system can be anthropogenic in the form of population increase, land use change, economic development, or may be natural in the form of climate change and decrease in water supply due to changes in precipitation. Mapping the water rights, supply, and demands within the basin can help determine the resiliency and sustainability of the basin.

Here, we present a coupled natural human system project based in the French Broad River Basin, in the Southern Appalachians. In the first phase of the project, we are developing and implementing a coupled hydro-economics modeling framework in the Mills River Basin (MRB), a tributary of the French Broad. The Mills River Basin was selected as the core basin for implementing a sustainable system of water allocation that is adaptive and reflects the interdependence of water dependent sectors. The headwaters of the Mills River are in the foothills of the Appalachians, and are currently under substantial land use land cover (LULC) change pressure for agricultural purposes. In this regard, the MRB is representative of similar headwater basins in regions of complex terrain undergoing similar pressures such as the Andes and Himalayas. First results of the project including a quantitative organigram mapping water availability, water consumption, and the relationships among water stakeholders within the basin will be presented.