Calculating climate change probabilities for water supply planning

Water industries try to ensure an adequate balance between reliable supplies and demand of water over a time scale of up to 40 years, a timescale that introduces considerable uncertainty into their calculations. The impacts of climate change introduce yet more uncertainties. UK scenarios of climate change predict warmer drier summers and milder wetter winters. Professor Nigel Arnell at Tyndall Centre South and Nick Reynard at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology are calculating probabilities for indicators of the impact of climate change. They are developing probability distributions of indicators for a number of locations in the UK with the aim of developing either generalised probabilities, or probabilities on a case-by-case basis. The approach uses thousands of climate change scenarios to represent multiple combinations of the drivers of climate change. Impact indicators include measures such as reliability of reservoir storage. Case studies are being undertaken in a number of representative drinking-water catchments across the UK. The studies use a catchment hydrological model; scenarios based upon different climate sensitivities; different emissions scenarios; and natural climatic variability. The final part of the project involves the specific development of guidelines for the incorporation of risk and uncertainty into water resources assessment. The guidelines will be consistent with other methods used in water resource planning, and will be tested for an example application. The project has a steering group of representatives from the water industry.

Professor Nigel Arnell at Tyndall Centre South is calculating statistical probabilities for indicators of the impact of climate change for the UK water industry. Indicators include measures such as the long-term reliability of reservoir storage.

More information
Contact the lead investigator of Project T3.33 (Incorporating risk and uncertainty into adaptation planning: climate change and water supply planning) Professor Nigel Arnell Tyndall Centre South University of Southampton Southampton SO17 1BJ Tel: 02380 594648 Other researchers involved in this project are: Nick Reynard, and Dr Andy Young, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Wallingford

Useful Websites
Does climate policy need probabilities? Tyndall Working Paper 34 UK Climate Impact Scenarios 2002 CEH Wallingford Project duration: October 2003 – October 2004

Round 3