The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

Working with scarce data for eco-engineering decision scaling: SESYNC Workshop

Co-convenors: AGWA, NASA, SESYNC, World Bank — 7 October 2014

Over the past three previous workshops, our thematic group has developed what we believe is a robust approach to reconciling ecological and engineering approaches to long-term robust and resilient water resources management through the use of a decision scaling framework, an approach we refer to as ecological decision scaling. Integral to this approach is viewing ecosystems as dynamic and responsive in complex ways to climate-induced changes, which marks a significant shift from current approaches to ecological approaches to sustainable water management. A critical assumption in our approach is that there are specific resilience indicators that are not currently widely employed. While we believe that ecological decision scaling is both effective and practical, we are also concerned that in many regions of the world, particularly in those areas where water infrastructure development is occurring very rapidly, the lack of easily accessible knowledge products for these resilience indicators represents a major gap for implementation.
We believe this gap may indeed be an opportunity, and we seek the guidance and input of the data product and remote sensing community in order to exchange insights, lessons, and expertise. Is the gap we perceive real? If so, can (and should) it be filled? If so, how?

Following up on the half-day discussion during our June 2014 workshop, for this meeting we will be deepening our exploration of existing data products and knowledge tools compatible with our framework and the capacity to develop potential new products, if necessary, that are suitable to support the metrics and methods developed from earlier eco-engineering SESYNC theme workshops. While this is the last SESYNC workshop for this theme, we hope to determine if there is a sufficient basis, level of interest, and support for carrying this work forward.

Brief Background Readings/Videos
Decision scaling
See Video 3.4 and Chapter 3, beginning with the Bottom-up Climate Assessments section (p. 21 in the PDF)

Overview of our SESYNC theme

Key Ecological Resilience Variables
A paper that published on 9 October (after our meeting) focuses on the need for new variables to engage with new problems:

The overall resilience variables we mentioned are listed here:

• heterogeneity
• connectivity / fragmentation (perhaps management intensity as an associated variable?)
management intensity might consist of land-use pressure, fisheries pressure, forestry, urbanization / human population clustering/density, subsistence vs commercial ag
• dynamic processes
broad climate/ecological categories?
stakeholder types/groups?
Notes following the introductory talks
Miro: How do think about ecosystems? Fisheries? Seasonal agriculture? Other issues can be deeply connected, such as domestic consumption and water quality for livelihoods, navigation and transportation

Marcus: The advantage of using a decision scaling approach to the environment is that it includes ecosystems right at the beginning of a project rather than at the end as an environmental impact statement. The thresholds approach also seems very novel. It is also very useful to not include economic assessments of ecosystems.

Miro: You could also ground eco-engineering decision scaling with a rapid ecosystem assessment, which are low cost, quick, and not just about biodiversity and species accounts but ecosystem services and processes. These have a clear, set methodology too.

LeRoy: How do we validate this information in a timely way? One estimate suggests more than 3700 hydro dams have been planned over 1 MW. Speed is important for ecosystems.

JBolten: Remote sensing is not necessarily a solution by itself — socioeconomic integration, management practices, are all critical. In the Mekong, we are working with existing processes and limits to integrate remote sensing, sometimes at a net loss of data resolution.

Dave: We need to complement earth observation with local information.

Marcus: We see three processes as relevant at the Bank:

1. decision scaling under climate uncertainty — this is not ecological, focuses on issues around GCMs, and includes cases from Nepal, Kenya, and other places.
2. data availability — how much can remote sensing contribute to monitoring? There is a general decline in monitoring stations and data quality generally worldwide. Can remote sensing and direct observations become part of day to day operations?
1. What are the data needs of our projects?
2. What is the capacity to provide day to day data?
3. report due out at the end of this calendar year
3. What is the sustainable use of water that can be expressed through the SDGs? Focuses on quantity and quality aspects, using South Korea as a case study, which will be presented for WWF7.

Dave: We can now effectively assess and monitor the global water balance, including precip and soil moisture.

real-time flood monitoring: Nepal
snow melt water
terrestrial groundwater storage -- the California drought
we support transboundary water management decisions
our data is open, accessible, trying to link to mobile phones, the web

About 10 years ago, we began emphasizing drought and we are now on the verge of a global drought monitoring program, which can be used for famine monitoring networks

We have been developing a Land Information System (LIS) that integrates data systems, tends to reduce data uncertainty. Data goes back to 1979.

JBolten: In the Mekong, we are updating MRC data sources, including flood pulse monitoring

Ben Z: we are optimizing dam locations in the Nile

Servir is a set of regional efforts -- Lawrence Freidl would be a good person to get involved in this effort since he’s the head of Applied Sciences; water quality is important but a small part of this work; accuracy of land covering is the focus now

JBolten: RFF and “space economics” with Molly McCarley is an exploration of the economic impacts of the GRACE data, which the USGS is applying to the Sparrow model. Water quality states can be sensed via coastal chlorophyll to examine nutrient loads

Marcus: We would like to look at broader variables -- salinity, sediment

Harvey: Soil erosion rates?

Dave: Not as much, we can look at turbidity, but it is intensive

LeRoy: Could we create a basin to target mapping for floodplain inundation, river discharge? The Gleason paper in PNAS is relevant here.

JBolten: We try to map the normal state and then apply a water mask to map deviation from the state. In the Mekong, we use a MODUS base, looking at the monsoon-dry vegetation variation. The Amazon mask needs work - we are redoing. Performance varies based on area. Possibly moving to a global system.

Dave: We should approach Lawrence Friedl to cofund multiple groups to create dataproducts.

Aleix: Jason2 can look at inundation of large rivers. The African SERVIR includes three models. The Mara (which connects Michael McClain at IHE), the Upper Zambezi, and Bangladesh flood engagement with Faisal Houssain.

Perhaps look at ecosystems instead of crops in the models as a target?

Miro: We focus on natural capital accounting.

Sarah: We have two initiatives:
1. extractives and water planning in Peru and Brazil on a Bank funded project. This focuses on four principles: connectivity, variability, productivity (i.e., ecological metabolism), and refugia.
2. a new river basin report card in development, building on the Chesapeake Bay example. Will try to focus initially on a Central American river or the Mekong. It is evidence based and bottom. It will have a communications and public oriented component and a more technical part for water managers. We think it will take 18 months to develop, but is not funded yet. It should begin in one or two months and ideally move to 11 basins.

Ben: My work focuses on resilience — physical climate and hydrology, East Africa and the MENA, and the Amazon (disease and early warning issues)

Marcus: We have to demonstrate demand in the Bank, clients

Harvey: Would Andrea Ray be a good ally?

Miro: Tom Cochrane does hydrological and ecological engineering -- he would be a natural ally.

Marcus: there is an advantage if we can pursue in a standardized way, perhaps at a course scale for an “R” value of resilience, as well as a more standardized local scale with more fine scale apples-to-apples comparisons

Dave: Could we look at the full water balanace?

To Do / Actions
Post the notes, PPTs — John

Develop an implementation plan / places list for candidate collaboration sites
should cut across climatic zones and river sizes

Needs list:
money - who would be leads for in-kind, expanded / new funding?
AID-Rockefeller Global Resilience Partnership
partners - people who are not in the room?
GEF - Astrid, IW:Learn?
Michael McClain
regional Bank programs

Develop a concept note about the focus of the project

A position paper / “call to arms” for EOS or a similar pub that focuses attention on the identified needs — JMatthews and Dave to generate the first draft

Schedule a call for mid November — JMatthews to generate a doodle