Drought, Climate Change, & Uncertainty
Most states and communities grapple with alternating periods of flooding and drought, lately with unprecedented intensity. Aqua Strategies is first and foremost a water planning firm, with PhD-level engineers and scientists who have worked not only with multiple state (TX, OK, LA, CA) but who have been sought out by international multilateral institutions to develop policy and technical solutions in some of the most water scarce countries on the planet (Iraq, Morocco, Mexico). Aqua Strategies has developed Drought Contingency Plans that achieve consensus on mitigation action ahead of events, and response actions during events, using sophisticated models and stakeholder engagement skills. Clients include: The State of California; Texas Water Development Board; Bureau of Reclamation; Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations; Bureau of Indian Affairs; and a multitude of small and medium-sized communities. Long-term drought planning usually involves use of downscaled global climate models as input to rainfall-runoff models (e.g. VIC), the results being subsequently routed through water availability models (typically RiverWare). Aqua Strategies staff have years of experience working through various climate scenarios to help clients be better prepared for future droughts.
Client: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Drought Response Program
Date: 2015 – 2017
Keywords: Drought Contingency Planning; Water Resources Planning; Regional Planning; Climate Change; Risk Analysis/Decision Support Tools; Stakeholder Engagement
The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer is the main water supply for over 150,000 people in Southeast Oklahoma and the sole source water supply aquifer in the eastern portion of the area. Aqua Strategies, in partnership with Duane Smith & Associates, led the effort to develop the Drought Contingency Plan to achieve two main goals: 1) Develop mitigation measures to implement during periods of drought, and 2) Develop proactive measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the aquifer. Extensive input was incorporated from stakeholders with sometimes competing interests from multiple water user sectors, including: Municipal/Industrial; Agricultural; Energy; Mining; Fish and Wildlife; and, Recreation/Tourism.
Over the 2-year development of the Drought Contingency Plan, Aqua Strategies first collected water consumption data from the multiple entities drawing from the aquifer to create a baseline. Subsequent studies included a Vulnerability Assessment showing sector-specific drought risks and a range of relevant mitigation strategies. Drought Monitoring and Response Measures included specific trigger points/thresholds at which to implement progressive actions from the stakeholder groups.
The Aqua Strategies team formalized the long-term adoption of the Drought Contingency Plan through an Operational & Administrative Framework, which made the stakeholder groups permanent members of an ongoing Drought Task Force. The Task Force agreed through consensus to a phased implementation of multiple mitigation and response measures identified during the project which are expected to have a profound effect on the sustainability of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer.