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Performance Assessment of a Water Supply System under the Impact of Climate Change and Droughts: Case Study of the Washington Metropolitan AreaPerformance Assessment of a Water Supply System under the Impact of Climate Change and Droughts: Case Study of the Washington Metropolitan Area

Abstract

Fresh water demand is rising due to factors such as population growth, economic development, and land use changes. At the same time, climate change is rendering the water supply even more uncertain for the future. Due to recurring water restrictions and increasing water-related fees triggered by droughts and water shortages, there is a widespread, growing discomfort with respect to future water availability. Among key stakeholders and local policy makers, this has led to an increased interest in modeling the availability of water resources, with the aim of developing and implementing the appropriate water resource infrastructure and management strategies. This paper examines the Washington metropolitan area (WMA) water supply system and uses a system dynamics approach as a planning tool to make an exploratory assessment of the adequacy of the study area’s water supply system to meet future water demand under the influence of substantial droughts and climate change. This assessment finds that the study area is self-sufficient under normal climate conditions during the entire planning horizon but that it will be strained under moderately severe droughts. On the basis of the temperature, streamflow and precipitation projections made by climate change models specific to the WMA region, climate change is expected to improve the water supply reliability. However, climate change has uncertainty associated with it. One of the four climate models for the Potomac River basin projects a decrease in the precipitation and streamflow, which may result in a reduction in the water supply and the system’s reliability. Regulating the price and the system losses are valuable tools that can be leveraged. But these policy interventions require stakeholder participation (price regulation) and capital investments (reduction of distribution losses). Finally, system reliability can also be improved by increasing water supplies.

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