Planning Case Studies
Climate Impacts Group (CIG) researchers have partnered with public and private organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest (PNW) to conduct detailed studies investigating the impacts of climate variability and change on specific resource management concerns and/or geographic areas. This type of detailed analysis, which has been applied most extensively by CIG to water resource management, plays an important role in developing regional capacity to adapt to climate impacts. The studies are particularly useful for policy making and infrastructure development assessments.
Recent planning research partnerships include:
- Portland (Oregon) Water Bureau Climate Change Study
Partnering agency: Portland Water Bureau, Portland, Oregon
The City of Portland, Oregon commissioned the CIG to investigate the potential impacts of climate change on water supply and demand in the Portland region, and to evaluate system expansion alternatives to meet these impacts. The study found that by 2040, climate change impacts on Portland’s water supply system would equal, on average, 50% of the total increase expected from population growth alone in that same period. These results have important implications for Portland’s water supply planning choices; planning for population growth alone is not sufficient if a 98% reliability standard is to be maintained. Portland also must be prepared to provide additional capacity to offset changes in hydrology and demand as a result of climate change (Palmer and Hahn 2002).
- Seattle Public Utilities Climate Change Study
Partnering agency: Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle, Washington
Seattle Public Utilities is working with the University of Washington’s Department of Civil Engineering and CIG researchers to explore the potential impacts of climate change on Seattle’s Seattle's Cedar and Tolt River water supplies. Special emphasis will be placed on identifying and describing the uncertainties associated with each phase of the impacts assessment. Climate change impacts on water demand will also be explored. It is hoped that the explicit identification of uncertainties will better support the use of this information in water resource management, as well as guide future efforts to reduce uncertainties in the methods studied.
- Tualatin Basin (Oregon) Climate Change Impacts Study
Partnering Agency: Clean Water Services, Tualatin, Oregon
In a project funded by Tualatin’s Clean Water Services, CIG-affiliated researchers at the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are conducting a study on climate change impacts for the Tualatin Basin in Oregon. The primary objective of the study is to determine the impacts of climate change on streamflow hydrology and the yield of the water supply. The study’s findings and water resource management model will be used by Clean Water Services to guide water resource management in the Tualatin Basin.
- Climate Change Streamflow Scenarios and System Response for the Snake River Basin
Partnering agency: Idaho Department of Water Resources
Research on the impacts of climate change on the hydrology of the Snake River Basin finds that climate change will dramatically shift flows in the Snake River system, increasing the potential for conflict between agricultural and environmental water uses. The research involves developing a simulation model of the Snake River system and its tributaries that encompasses the complex climatologic and hydrologic interactions in the system. This project, conducted with the cooperation of the State of Idaho’s Department of Water Resources, will ultimately allow for integration of the Snake River system into water resource operations models for the entire Columbia Basin.
- Climate Change Impacts on PNW Ski Industry
Partnering Agency: various PNW ski areas
A study on climate change impacts on the PNW ski industry found that even modest increases in regional temperature and precipitation as a result of climate change could significantly decrease revenues at moderate elevation ski areas by shortening the length of the ski season and reducing patronage due to undesirable ski conditions (as a result of increased winter rain).
- Pilot application of climate change streamflow scenarios: Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council and the Idaho Department of Water Resources
Partnering agency: Northwest Power Planning Council, Idaho Department of Water Resources
The CIG is partnering with the NWPPC to apply climate change streamflow scenarios to existing agency planning models for the purpose of evaluating the potential impacts of climate change on hydropower and instream flow management. A similar pilot application is being undertaken with the Idaho Department of Water Resources for evaluation of climate change impacts on streamflow in the Snake River basin.
In addition to specific technical studies, the CIG provides more generalized technical assistance on climate and climate impacts for a variety of federal, state, and local resource planning efforts. One such example is CIG’s work with the Washington State Watershed Planning Program.