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Water planners face the challenge of ensuring reliable water supply for people and the environment. Long-term changes and short-term variability in both the natural and social environments create large uncertainty in future water supply and demand. This makes it difficult to know when and how to adapt water systems through operational changes, policy, and infrastructure development. Adaptive planning approaches, in which planners defer action and respond as the system changes over time, have the potential to enable robustness to an uncertain future without unnecessary infrastructure development or policy changes. However, adaptive approaches may prevent planners from leveraging economies of scale, can pose a risk to reliability, and may require greater institutional capacity. In this talk, I will evaluate adaptive planning approaches under different hydrological, technical, and social conditions and discuss their implications for water reliability, cost, and equity. I will discuss case studies from drought planning in Melbourne, Australia; groundwater management in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and climate change adaptation in Mombasa, Kenya.


This is Part 3 (of 5) for the Managing Infrastructure with Deep Uncertainty Discussion Series. Presentation starts at minute 1:02 of the video.

Bio -- Sarah is an Assistant Professor at Stanford studying water resources and climate change adaptation from a socio-technical systems perspective. She integrates methods from hydrology, policy analysis, and data science to inform decision-making around critical environmental challenges. Sarah holds a PhD in Engineering Systems from MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. Before starting her PhD, she worked as a researcher and consultant on issues at the intersection of water, energy, and environment. Sarah has an S.M. in Technology and Policy from MIT and a B.A. in Physics and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, Sarah enjoys rock climbing, playing the violin, baking bread, and reading novels. She is originally from Baltimore, MD.