Integrated Hydro-Economic Model

Integrated Research Design


This research project is built around the principles of integrated research design. The project will take researchers from the hydrologic and climate sciences, economics, sociology, public policy and sustainability sciences and recognize the connections across disciplines to provide the most comprehensive and complete information possible as outputs from this work. 


Changing snowpack in the arid West is not a one-dimensional challenge. The economists leading this project seek to understand how altered water flows from snowpack changes will affect decision-makers and to evaluate the effectiveness of existing institutions to handle these changes. A necessary input into these economic models is hydrologic data and climate forecasting, an example of the first cross-discipline integration. Additionally, there are structural components to how stakeholders are related and the constraints they may face at adapting to climate changes. While economic models can estimate probable outcomes from different inputs for decision-makers, a firm understanding of the constraints facing these decision-makers to inform model inputs and interpretations comes from the institutional analysis. These interconnections strengthen the usefulness of the research and allow for greater information gains to the body of knowledge on this issue than would be possible with each set of researchers operating independently.


Use outputs from hydro climate models as inputs into optimization models of water managers


A model of the choices facing a water manager will be used to determine optimal management decisions based on water flows, economic factors, and other constraints. This will demonstrate potential costs and benefits to different user groups under possible climate scenarios, as well as likely allocation decisions.


Simulate producer responses to changing water supply under different climate scenarios


In addition to modeling the optimal social benefit from a water manager's perspective, an optimization model of agricultural producers will be developed under the same flow scenarios. Producers are assumed to maximize profit, with options for crop choices, the proportion of acreage to fallow, and whether to sell water rights and land each season, over a long-term planning horizon. Policy constraints and water rights prices will be varied over different runs of the model to show how net benefits to the producer, water allocation and yields change as the parameters are adjusted. This information may be used to develop a tool for producers to use to consider possible outcomes of different choices.


Create a model of water allocation efficiency under changing climate conditions in a system of prior appropriation


An additional model will be developed that represents dynamics between multiple agricultural producers, includes spacial constraints and multiple crop options and has a storage management component. An end tool will be created to allow water managers to adjust parameters to see how interactions between producer decisions and institutional allocation models create different possible economic outcomes.



Mountain lake at sunset

Photo: USDA Forest Service