Improving water security in the face of climate change

Friday, 24 August, 2018

Improving water security in the face of climate change

South Australia’s Goyder Institute for Water Research has developed tools to help planners and policymakers assess the impact of climate change on water resource systems and guide adaption planning. The tools have been designed to address a significant knowledge gap — how to best use climate projections to modify or augment a system’s design to improve its resilience in a changing hydroclimate.

The Climate Resilience Analysis Framework and Tools (CRAFT) project developed a framework to ‘stress test’ complex systems and their response to climate change, created an innovative statistical package to support the framework and applied both tools in practice using a water resource case study. It is anticipated that these tools will used by science and engineering groups within the state government, water utilities, local government and consulting sector as they plan for future water security.

The project builds on the institute’s SA Climate Ready project, whose climate change projections underpin water planning across South Australia.

The CRAFT framework, in the form of a short document, helps users to modify a system’s design or operation to improve its resilience to change, identify the ‘triggers’ that limit its resilience in the face of further climate variation and identify when it’s the right time to implement adaptation to the system. It differs from most climate change planning tools as it starts with understanding the system first — how it functions and responds to different stressors — before any climate models are considered. This makes it easier to identify the best course of action for each system under different climate scenarios.

The team also developed the companion software foreSIGHT for system stress testing, which includes innovative ways to generate hypothetical climate scenarios and assess the magnitude of changes on given measures of a system’s performance. foreSIGHT was developed using the open source R software and is freely available.

To demonstrate how CRAFT can be used to assess climate change impacts on water resources systems, the team selected a managed aquifer recharge (MAR) scheme at Parafield in Salisbury as a case study. They found that multiple climate variables — including changes to total annual rainfall, potential evapotranspiration, intermittency and seasonality — contributed to a decrease in system performance and they tested hypothetical infrastructure scenarios (eg, increasing the number of injection wells, augmenting holding storage) to see if they improved the system’s overall resilience.

Increasing detention time, increasing surface storage capacity and changing the number of injection wells led to a moderate improvement in performance but it is unlikely that a single augmentation option would address this system’s reduced performance. They found that a combination of system augmentations, potentially in conjunction with demand management, and alternate water sources should be considered for the scheme to maintain a suitably reliable water supply.

A training workshop was held on 21 November 2017 at the University of Adelaide to train potential end users in the application of the Climate Resilience Analysis Framework and in using the associated software tools. It was attended by 17 participants from CSIRO, DEWNR, SA Water, Bureau of Meteorology, PIRSA-SARDI, Water Research Australia, Salisbury Water and Inside Infrastructure.

The foreSIGHT software will meanwhile be used by another current Goyder Institute research project (Sustainable Expansion of Irrigated Agriculture and Horticulture in Northern Adelaide Plains) to generate inputs for system ‘stress testing’. It is anticipated that the framework will also be adopted for use in climate adaptation planning by science and engineering groups within state government, water utilities, local government and consulting companies.

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