State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project Id: 2010WA317B
Title: Understanding the Vulnerability of Columbia Basin Irrigated Agriculture to Predicted Climate Changes using a Coupled Hydrological-crop Model
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2010
End Date: 2/28/2011
Congressional District: Washington 5
Focus Categories: Water Quantity, Climatological Processes, Agriculture
Keywords: climate irrigation hydrology modeling
Principal Investigators: Adam, Jennifer (Washington State University); Leung, Fok-Yan Thomas; Claudio Stockle
Federal Funds: $ 28,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 56,000
Abstract: The hydrological cycle of the western United States is expected to be significantly affected by climate change. Vast areas of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are likely to experience decreased snowpack, increased winter flooding, and reduced summer flows. Agriculture is a vital part of the Washington State economy. Irrigated agriculture in the water poor regions is particularly sensitive to potential changes in the regional hydrological cycle associated with global climate change. The challenge is to assess the vulnerability of surface water supply and agricultural production to projected climate change and to educate water resource and agriculture stakeholder groups on the potential range of impacts.

Our long-term goal is to develop a system of decision support tools that would allow PNW agricultural producers, water resource managers, and policy makers to anticipate the effects of climate change and to optimize water and land management practices and produce regulations accordingly. Our objective for this project is to create an interactive Geographical Information Systems (GIS) tool over the Columbia River Basin (CRB) showing the range of changes in surface water availability and irrigated crop yield due to projected climate changes by the year 2040. Spatially-explicit information on the range of impacts to water supplies and crop yields will allow us to understand what areas within the CRB are most vulnerable to climate change. This information can be used to educate stakeholder groups regarding the need for, as well as where to allocate, resources for adaptive measures.

Our approach is to apply a newly-developed coupled hydrology/crop/water management model to simulate year 2040 surface water availability, irrigation demand, and crop yield over the CRB for multiple emissions scenarios and Global Climate Models (GCMs). The model will be evaluated by its ability to reproduce historical county crop yield estimates. The model results will be incorporated into the linked ArcGIS/Access Database tool and distributed to stakeholder groups via Washington State University (WSU) extension. We will provide training as to the use and importance of the tools.

Our GIS maps showing the range of uncertainty in surface water availability relates to SWWRC priority activity #1, "climate change effects on water balances, stream flows, and water quality". Our long-term goal of developing a decision support tool to explore the effects of various water resources and agricultural management strategies on the viability of irrigated agriculture (a vital part of the region's economy) relates to SWWRC priority activity #2, "policy and socio-economic aspects of water resources management".

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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