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Colorado River managers face a deeply uncertain future. Projections of declining watershed runoff are likely to necessitate restructuring of the present interpretation of the Law of the River that allocates water supply among Mexico and the seven states of the Basin. Additionally, the magnitude and distribution of consumptive uses of water will change. Outcomes for river and reservoir ecosystems are poorly predicted. How should we make better decisions given these uncertain factors? To help answer this question and expand conversation about the Colorado River management issues, we (1) classify different levels of uncertainty to guide decisions about which modeling tools and public policies to use; (2) review advantages of existing tools that will contribute to future operation and management; (3) develop an easy to use exploratory model that adequately represents the water system to empower a broader range of river stakeholders to adaptively manage the river and its reservoirs. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of promising future management paradigms and open research questions in the area of planning under uncertainty.


This is Part 1 (of 5) for the Managing Infrastructure with Deep Uncertainty Discussion Series.

Bio: Jian is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Utah Water Research Laboratory. Jian’s research aims to develop alternative management paradigms that not only meet water supply objectives but also increase the potential for recovery of endangered species and for river ecosystem rehabilitation. His research involves identifying critical uncertainties in the Colorado River system, exploring available methodologies and tools to deal with deep uncertainty and designing the combined long-term and short-term policies that allow the system to be adaptive to future changes.