Water quality implementation plans developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its state, local, and tribal partners to meet Clean Water Act requirements may be vulnerable to climate change and other future challenges, a new RAND study has found.
RAND researchers examined two pilot case studies — one on the Patuxent River in Maryland and one on the North Farm Creek tributary of the Illinois River — to explore and illustrate how Robust Decision Making methods could help planners develop water quality implementation plans that are more robust to such uncertainty.
In both pilot regions, researchers found that proposed plans meet their water quality goals in under current assumptions, but do not meet water quality goals in many climate and other futures. The study finds that modified plans and adaptive management approaches can often reduce these vulnerabilities.
In order to improve and maintain high water quality standards in changing, often difficult-to-predict conditions, the study recommends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its partners apply iterative risk management processes and adopt water quality implementation plans that are robust and flexible.
The study, “Managing Water Quality in the Face of Uncertainty: A Robust Decision-Making Demonstration for EPA’s National Water Program,” can be found here at www.rand.org.