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Many-objective robust decision making for water allocation under climate change

Yan, Dan, Ludwig, Fulco, Huang, He Qing, Werners, Saskia E.
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.607-608 pp. 294-303
algorithms, climate change, decision making, dry season, managers, models, researchers, river deltas, rivers, saltwater intrusion, uncertainty, water allocation, water shortages, watersheds, China
Water allocation is facing profound challenges due to climate change uncertainties. To identify adaptive water allocation strategies that are robust to climate change uncertainties, a model framework combining many-objective robust decision making and biophysical modeling is developed for large rivers. The framework was applied to the Pearl River basin (PRB), China where sufficient flow to the delta is required to reduce saltwater intrusion in the dry season. Before identifying and assessing robust water allocation plans for the future, the performance of ten state-of-the-art MOEAs (multi-objective evolutionary algorithms) is evaluated for the water allocation problem in the PRB. The Borg multi-objective evolutionary algorithm (Borg MOEA), which is a self-adaptive optimization algorithm, has the best performance during the historical periods. Therefore it is selected to generate new water allocation plans for the future (2079–2099). This study shows that robust decision making using carefully selected MOEAs can help limit saltwater intrusion in the Pearl River Delta. However, the framework could perform poorly due to larger than expected climate change impacts on water availability. Results also show that subjective design choices from the researchers and/or water managers could potentially affect the ability of the model framework, and cause the most robust water allocation plans to fail under future climate change. Developing robust allocation plans in a river basin suffering from increasing water shortage requires the researchers and water managers to well characterize future climate change of the study regions and vulnerabilities of their tools.