CUAHSI's 2018 Fall Cyberseminar Series:

Major Challenges in Key River Basins Around the World

Host: Katherine Schlef, CUAHSI

Water management of major transboundary river basins is fascinating in its complexity and is also increasingly challenged by change in both hydro-climatology and human populations. For example, the climatology in large transboundary river basins may be influenced by monsoons, mesoscale convective systems, hurricanes, or orthographic rainfall. The hydrology can be similarly complex, ranging from high-elevation glacier- or snowmelt-fed catchments to completely urban landscapes to low-lying flatlands or arid plains with substantial groundwater interactions. Furthermore, human use of water for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and hydropower generation purposes alters the natural water cycle and can become contentious when water crosses geopolitical boundaries and as demand for water increases. In this seminar series, you will hear perspectives from a diverse set of emerging researchers regarding the challenges and possible solutions facing major transboundary river basins in the world, such as the Indus River Basin in Pakistan, the American and Sacramento River Basins in California, the Ohio River Basin in the United States Midwest, and the Nile River Basin in Ethiopia. You will gain an increased appreciation for the complexity of water management in such basins and will be inspired by the innovative and novel methods being used to solve the many challenges they face.

All talks take place on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. ET with the exception of October 4 which will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Dates, Speakers, and Topics:

  • September 20: Water Management and Climate Extremes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin | Scott Steinschneider, Cornell University
  • September 27: Water is for fighting over: Transboundary flows in the Indus River Basin | Hassaan Furqan Khan, Stanford University
  • October 4*: Evaluating FEW Nexus in the Coupled Natural-Human System with Agent-Based Modeling | Y.C. Ethan Yang, Lehigh University
  • October 11: Optimal resources allocation in the Upper Blue Nile basin | Mariam Allam, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • October 18: Hydropower Resilience Guidelines | Patrick Ray, University of Cincinnati

*This webinar will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Join Us!

Registration is free! You must register for the series in order to attend. To register, click here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the series.

Presentation Abstracts, and Recordings

  • September 20: Scott Steinschneider, Cornell University

    Water Management and Climate Extremes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin

    California is a land beset by extremes. Multiyear droughts are common, arising from high-amplitude and persistent ridges off the Western U.S. coast. These droughts often end with extreme floods linked to atmospheric rivers—narrow plumes of tropical Pacific moisture that create orographic precipitation over the Sierra Nevada. These extreme events pose significant water management challenges in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, which encompasses most of the state and contains one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States, swelling populations drawn by a diverse and growing economy, and critical, at-risk ecosystems, including in the California Delta. After reviewing the history of the California water system, this talk delves into recent advances in understanding past and potential future variability and change in climate extremes across California, with a focus on what we can learn from climate models and paleoclimate proxies like tree-ring chronologies. Armed with this knowledge, we will then address emerging strategies to improve water management in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin, and the potential to increase system resiliency to extreme climate.

    View Recording.

  • September 27: Hassaan Furqan Khan, Stanford University

    Water is for fighting over: Transboundary flows in the Indus River Basin

    A substantial proportion of total flow in the Indus River Basin, a critical lifeline for Pakistan’s agricultural-based economy, generates in other countries. Towards the eastern border, rapid infrastructure development from India threatens to reduce flows from Indus’ eastern tributaries governed by the Indus Water Treaty. On the western front, there is growing interest from Afghanistan in utilizing the hydroelectric potential of Kabul River, another major tributary to the Indus, where there is no existing transboundary water sharing agreement. Given the unique hydrology of the Kabul River, there is potential for increased conflict and mistrust between the two countries if development of the Kabul Basin is performed unilaterally.

    This talk will provide a history of intra-country and inter-country flow apportionment agreements in the Indus Basin in Pakistan, discuss current basin conditions, and then delve deeper into transboundary water management in the Kabul River Basin. We will discuss development of a water systems model and its use in exploring relative impacts of climatic and operational changes on the water-energy nexus in the Kabul Basin. This work aims to shed light on potential benefits of joint development and operation of water infrastructure in the Basin for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    View Recording.

  • October 4: Y.C. Ethan Yang, Lehigh University

    Evaluating FEW Nexus in the Coupled Natural-Human System with Agent-Based Modeling

    There are significant knowledge and capability gaps associated with the food-energy-water (FEW) Nexus, particularly in the context of data and modeling. This talk will address these gaps by applying the agent-based modeling (ABM) framework to decipher the complex adaptive FEW Nexus as a coupled natural-human “system of systems.” Dr. Yang will illustrate how to use this ABM tool to evaluate the sustainability of this FEW systems at different temporal and spatial scales driven by changes in both the human and natural domains. He will focus on three particular science questions: how to quantify the human-ecosystem interaction, how to accommodate natural uncertainties in the coupled system, and how to address the human behavior uncertainty in the FEW systems. 

    View Recording.

  • October 11: Mariam Allam, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    Optimal resources allocation in the Upper Blue Nile basin

    The Nile basin is under stress due to rapid population growth rates, inefficient allocation of resources, impacts of climate change, and conflicts between riparian countries sharing the basin waters. This research develops a framework for optimal allocation of land and water resources to agriculture and hydropower production in the upper Blue Nile (UBN) basin, which contributes about 60 percent of the Nile river flow. The framework consists of three optimization models that aim to: (a) provide accurate estimates of the basin water budget components, (b) allocate land and water resources optimally to rain-fed, and irrigated agriculture, and (c) allocate water to agriculture and hydropower production, and investigate trade-offs between them.

    Maps of suitable lands are delineated and incorporated into a land-water allocation model allowing for enhancing soils from one suitability class to another to increase agricultural productivity. The model allocates land to rain-fed agriculture while maximizing the total net economic benefits. This framework is extended to incorporate irrigated agriculture in the basin where eleven proposed irrigation projects are screened, and only three of them were found economically attractive. This optimal agricultural expansion is expected to reduce the basin flow by 7.6 cubic kilometers which will impact the downstream countries.

    Cooperation scenarios that limit the magnitude of this reduction are studied and their impact on the net economic benefit is quantified. The optimization framework is expanded further to include hydropower production from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam (GERD). Optimal operation rules are identified to maximize annual hydropower generation from the dam while achieving a relatively uniform monthly production rate. Trade-offs between agricultural expansion and hydropower generation are analyzed defining scenarios for cooperation that would achieve win-win outcomes for all riparian countries of the basin.

    View Recording.

  • October 18: Patrick Ray, University of Cincinnati

    Hydropower Resilience Guidelines

    The Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guidelines aim to develop a systematic approach to incorporating resilience to climate change and natural disasters in hydropower projects. The guidelines were developed to serve as guidance for practitioners, and are based on the Decision Tree Framework, work done under the World Bank’s Water Global Practice. Their development is being funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for the use of (and under the direction of) the International Hydropower Association. They are now being tested in pilot projects around the world by international financial institutions and hydropower project owners. This talk will present example findings from hydropower projects in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, and will describe the evolution of best practice from a focus on climate change risks, in particular, toward multidimensional risk management.

    View Recording.