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Resilience by Design: A Deep Uncertainty Approach for Water Systems in a Changing World

University of Massachusetts | The World Bank Group
Year Published:
Resource Type:
Evaluations and Research

Current water infrastructure designs and design processes are ill-suited to address deep uncertainties related to climate variability and change. Water systems increasingly exhibit fragility to extreme weather events and changing climate conditions. The concept of resilience offers a framework to improve water system design for uncertain futures by incorporating capabilities such as persistence, adaptability, and transferability. Existing formalizations of resilience in engineering design, however, are dependent on assumptions of climate and hydrologic stationarity and of well-characterized uncertainty, rendering them obsolete relative to our current understanding of the uncertainties we face.

In this paper, the authors use methods based on decision making under deep uncertainty to establish a methodology to design for the resilience of water systems. The formulation generates water system design options that provide resilience capabilities at least cost and specify the optimal choices for persistence, adaptability, and transformability for performance over a wide range of possible futures.