Wednesday May 4, 2022


With water scarcity increasing around the globe, arid regions are striving to develop more flexible and diversified water supplies. For example, California’s 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio Initiative recommends improving and expanding the state’s conveyance and storage infrastructure as well as developing groundwater banking and other means of more flexibly sharing water. The success of such initiatives depends in large part upon the ability of water providers to collaboratively finance and build new infrastructure.

To date, most water supply and storage planning has relied on models that analyze average, project-level outcomes. But new research by Hamilton et al. in California’s southern Central Valley suggests these tools no longer suffice, especially when planning under future climate uncertainty.

The team used the water resources simulation model CALFEWS (California Food-Energy-Water System) to evaluate thousands of potential partnership structures for each of three capital projects—rehabilitation of the Friant-Kern Canal, development of a hypothetical groundwater bank, or both—under wet, average, and dry 50-year hydrologic scenarios. The results indicate that even without considering future climate change, most water infrastructure partnerships resulted in unequal costs, risks, and benefits across individual water providers.

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