Future Water Management in the South Platte River Basin: Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing, Population, Agriculture, and Climate Change in a Semi-Arid Region.
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
In semi-arid basins across the world, the gap between water supply and demand is growing due to climate change, population growth, and shifts in agriculture and unconventional energy development. Water conservation efforts among residential and industrial water users, recycling and reuse techniques and innovative regulatory frameworks for water management strive to mitigate this gap, however, the extent of these strategies are often difficult to quantify and not included in modeling water allocations. Decision support systems (DSS) are purposeful for supporting water managers in making informed decisions when competing demands create the need to optimize water allocation between sectors. One region of particular interest is the semi-arid region of the South Platte River basin in northeastern Colorado, where anthropogenic and climatic effects are expected to increase the gap between water supply and demand in the near future. Specifically, water use in the South Platte is impacted by several high-intensity activities, including unconventional energy development, i.e. hydraulic fracturing, and large withdrawals for agriculture; these demands are in addition to a projected population increase of 100% by 2050. The current work describes the development of a DSS for the South Platte River basin, using the Water Evaluation and Planning system software (WEAP) to explore scenarios of how variation in future water use in the energy, agriculture, and municipal sectors will impact water allocation decisions. Detailed data collected on oil and gas water use in the Niobrara shale play will be utilized to predict future sector use. We also employ downscaled climate projections for the region to quantify the potential range of water availability in the basin under each scenario, and observe whether or not, and to what extent, climate may impact management decisions at the basin level.