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Hydro-economic modeling with aquifer–river interactions to guide sustainable basin management

Kahil, Mohamed Taher, Ward, Frank A., Albiac, Jose, Eggleston, Jack, Sanz, David
Journal of hydrology 2016 v.539 pp. 510-524
aquifers, basins, climate change, ecosystems, environmental impact, humans, models, rivers, stakeholders, surface water, water policy, watersheds, Spain
Policymakers in arid and semiarid basins face hard choices on water policies needed for adaptation to climate change. Hydro-economic modeling is a state-of-the art approach that can be used to guide the design and implementation of these policies in basins. A major gap in developments of hydro-economic modeling to date has been the weak integration of physically-based representations of water sources and uses such as the interaction between ground and surface water resources, to inform complex basin scale policy choices. This paper presents an integrated hydro-economic modeling framework to address this gap with application to an important and complex river basin in Spain, the Jucar basin, for the assessment of a range of climate change scenarios and policy choices. Results indicate that in absence of adequate policies protecting water resources and natural ecosystems, water users will strategically deplete reservoirs, aquifers and river flows for short-term adaptation to climate change, disregarding the impacts on the environment and future human activities. These impacts can be addressed by implementing sustainable management policies. However, these policies could have disproportionate costs for some stakeholders groups, and their opposition may undermine attempts at sustainable policy. These tradeoffs among water policy choices are important guides to the design of policies aimed at basin-wide adaptation to climate change.