A Framework Predicting Water Availability in a Rapidly Growing, Semi-Arid Region under Future Climate Change

Monday, 15 December 2014
Bangshuai Han1, Shawn G Benner1, Nancy F Glenn1, Eric Lindquist1, Khila Raj Dahal1, John Bolte2, Kellie B Vache2 and Alejandro N Flores1, (1)Boise State University, Boise, ID, United States, (2)Oregon State University, Biological and Ecological Engineering, Corvallis, OR, United States
Climate change can lead to dramatic variations in hydrologic regime, affecting both surface water and groundwater supply. This effect is most significant in populated semi-arid regions where water availability are highly sensitive to climate-induced outcomes. However, predicting water availability at regional scales, while resolving some of the key internal variability and structure in semi-arid regions is difficult due to the highly non-linearity relationship between rainfall and runoff. In this study, we describe the development of a modeling framework to evaluate future water availability that captures elements of the coupled response of the biophysical system to climate change and human systems. The framework is built under the Envision multi-agent simulation tool, characterizing the spatial patterns of water demand in the semi-arid Treasure Valley area of Southwest Idaho - a rapidly developing socio-ecological system where urban growth is displacing agricultural production. The semi-conceptual HBV model, a population growth and allocation model (Target), a vegetation state and transition model (SSTM), and a statistically based fire disturbance model (SpatialAllocator) are integrated to simulate hydrology, population and land use. Six alternative scenarios are composed by combining two climate change scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) with three population growth and allocation scenarios (Status Quo, Managed Growth, and Unconstrained Growth). Five-year calibration and validation performances are assessed with Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency. Irrigation activities are simulated using local water rights. Results show that in all scenarios, annual mean stream flow decreases as the projected rainfall increases because the projected warmer climate also enhances water losses to evapotranspiration. Seasonal maximum stream flow tends to occur earlier than in current conditions due to the earlier peak of snow melting. The aridity index and water deficit generally increase in the irrigated area. The most sensitive area is along the Boise Foothill which is the transitioning zone from water deficit to water abundant. However, these trends vary significantly between scenarios in space and time. The outcome of the study will serve as a reference for local stakeholders to make decisions on future land use.