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Dealing with Uncertainties in Fresh Water Supply: Experiences in the Netherlands

Thissen, Wil, J. Kwakkel, M. Mens, J. van der Sluijs, S. Stemberger, A. Wardekker, D. Wildschut. 2015. Dealing with Uncertainties in Fresh Water Supply: Experiences in the Netherlands. Water Resources Management, 1-23. First online

Abstract

Developing fresh water supply strategies for the long term needs to take into account the fact that the future is deeply uncertain. Not only the extent of climate change and the extent and nature of its impacts are unknown, also socio-economic conditions may change in unpredictable ways, as well as social preferences. Often, it is not possible to find solid ground for estimating probabilities for the relevant range of imaginable possible future developments. Yet, some of these may have profound impacts and consequences for society which could be reduced by timely proactive adaptation. In response to these and similar challenges, various approaches, methods and techniques have been proposed and are being developed to specifically address long-term strategy development under so-called deep uncertainty. This paper, first, offers a brief overview of developments in the field of planning under (deep) uncertainty. Next, we illustrate application of three different approaches to fresh water provision planning under uncertainty in case studies in the Netherlands: a resilience approach, oriented to (re) designing fresh water systems in such a way that they will be less vulnerable, resp. will be able to recover easily from future disturbances; a robustness approach, oriented to quantitative assessment of system performance for various system configurations (adaptation options) under a range of external disturbances, and an exploratory modeling approach, developed to explore policy effectiveness and system operation under a very wide set of assumptions about future conditions.

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