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Decision support for a sustainable water supply in areas of water scarcity

MoRE2020 Fellow Karin Sjöstrand, outgoing mobility to the Columbia University in the City of New York, USA, from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Project summary

The provision of a safe drinking water is of primary importance in society and a prerequisite for public health and economic development. However, the OECD prognosticates that 40% of the global population will be affected by water scarcity by the year 2050. In areas with scarce water resources it is necessary that everyone, i.e. public utilities, industry, agriculture and residential consumers, can contribute according to their respective capability. In the process of ensuring and securing a sustainable water supply for future generations and for all sectors in society many decisions involving a complex array of factors must be taken. There is often a strong will to do right; however there is an absence of decision support, e.g. on societal costs and benefits associated with different system solutions, to help make informed and sustainable decisions. This project will combine the expertise of three leading research milieus within water supply management and decision support, i.e. RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Chalmers University of Technology and Columbia University in the City of New York, with an end-user who is constantly faced with the complex decision situations of water scarcity, i.e. Region Gotland, to create an exceptional foundation to respond to the emerging needs of water supply decision making in areas of water scarcity. The research project will provide an improved way of addressing environmental, social and economic effects of alternative system solutions while incorporating uncertainties and system complexity. A novel decision support system will be developed which enables an integration of risk analyses and decision analyses and takes into account the views and interests of different stakeholders.

Collaborating end-user: Region Gotland

Summary of Project Results

Access to good quality water in sufficient quantity is a prerequisite for public health and economic development. Hence, as water scarcity and drought become more common, planning to avoid their consequences becomes crucial. The aim of this project was to develop methods to guide, inform and support decision makers on water scarcity mitigation. Developed methods were applied on the island of Gotland, one of the most water-stressed parts of Sweden. For example, a novel approach of constructing marginal abatement cost curves for comparing water scarcity mitigation measures was developed within the project. When applied on Gotland, seventeen site-specific municipal, agricultural, industrial and household mitigation measures were compared from a cost-effectiveness perspective. The project also contributed with a novel risk assessment approach that enables assessments of socio-economic losses under a range of water supply disruption scenarios, from low to high probability events. By combining risk analysis with cost-benefit analysis, the economically most profitable alternative can be identified. The purpose of the approach is to avoid sub-optimization when prioritizing between measures. Project results have been disseminated through three published peer-reviewed articles and presentations at three national and international conferences. In conclusion, the methods developed in the project will contribute to the ongoing work at water utilities, municipalities, county administrative boards and national authorities for improving water resources management and securing a safe, reliable and sustainable water supply.

Senast uppdaterad: 2019-03-21 11:13