A new scientific society, the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty, is arguing that water managers need to use a different system of analysis for planning ahead.
The Society thinks that uncertainty in this time of rapid environmental and social change implies that managers need to consider potential outcomes and the probability of those outcomes occurring.
The deep uncertainty method is about planning for multiple possible futures and having the flexibility to tweak and revise whichever of these plans become the final eventuality.
Circle of Blue reports:
“The society’s main objective is to develop tools for better decisions, especially for water. The old water planning model, Kaatz explained, was retrospective. It looked backward at demand and extended that line forward. Many utilities soon found that they had wildly overestimated. On a graph, these projections look like a porcupine: forecasted demand lines pointing sharply upward, like the quills, while actual demand is flat or slopes downward along the spine.
In the past utilities simply built bigger canals and larger reservoirs to buffer against drought. Now those options are rarely the first choice. They are costly and there is not enough water. “We need to be more clever,” Lempert (president of the society) says.”
Denver Water, Colorado is one of the water utilities that use deep uncertainty tools in its planning.
Based on the analysis achieved through this method, Denver Water is considering storing water in aquifers for later recovery.
This is an out of the box option that the utility had not considered as an option before this analysis.
It is not a widespread method yet, but with Denver’s good results, perhaps more utilities will consider adopting this method in the future.
For water utility infrastructure management practitioners, these types of new tools, analysis methods, and use of tools to examine alternative planning and scenarios are something to keep an eye on, to think about, and to use as appropriate.