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Aerial river management by smart cross-border reforestation

Weng, Wei, Costa, Luís, Lüdeke, Matthias K.B., Zemp, Delphine C.
Land use policy 2019 v.84 pp. 105-113
atmospheric precipitation, cities, dry season, models, planning, population growth, reforestation, rivers, runoff, socioeconomics, water management, Bolivia
In the face of increasing socio-economic and climatic pressures in growing cities, it is rational for managers to consider multiple approaches for securing water availability. One often disregarded option is the promotion of reforestation in source regions supplying important quantities of atmospheric moisture transported over long distances through aerial rivers, affecting water resources of a city via precipitation and runoff (‘smart reforestation’). Here we present a case demonstrating smart reforestation’s potential as a water management option. Using numerical moisture back-tracking models, we identify important upwind regions contributing to the aerial river of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia). Simulating the effect of reforestation in the identified regions, annual precipitation and runoff reception in the city was found to increase by 1.25% and 2.30% respectively, while runoff gain during the dry season reached 26.93%. Given the city’s population growth scenarios, the increase of the renewable water resource by smart reforestation could cover 22–59% of the additional demand by 2030. Building on the findings, we argue for a more systematic consideration of aerial river connections between regions in reforestation and land planning for future challenges.