Assessing the Tradeoffs of Water Allocation: Design and Application of an Integrated Water Resources Model
The Bow River Basin in Southern Alberta is a semi-arid catchment, with surface water provided from the Rocky Mountains. Water resources in this basin, primarily surface water, are allocated to a variety of users- industry, municipalities, agriculture, energy and needs for the environment. The largest consumptive use is by agriculture (80%), and several large dams at the headwaters provide for over 800,000 MWhrs of hydropower. This water is managed by the 1990 Water Act, distributing water via licenses following the “first in time first in right” principle. Currently, the basin is over-allocated, and closed to any new licenses. Conflicts between different water users have consequences for the economy and the environment. By using an integrated water resources model, these conflicts can be further examined and solutions can be investigated and proposed. In this research an integrated water resources model, referred to as Sustainability-oriented Water Allocation Management and Planning Model applied to the Bow Basin (SWAMPB), is developed to emulate Alberta’s Water Resources Management Model (WRMM). While having the same allocation structure as WRMM, SWAMPB instead provides a simulation environment, linking allocation with dynamic irrigation and economic sub-models. SWAMPB is part of a much larger framework, SWAMP, to simulate the water resources systems for the entire South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB). SWAMPB integrates economics with a water resources allocation model as well as an irrigation model- all developed using the system dynamics approach. Water is allocated following the allocation structure provided in WRMM, through operation rules of reservoirs and diversions to water users. The irrigation component calculates the water balance of farms, determining the crop water demand and crop yields. An economic valuation is provided for both crops and hydropower generation through the economic component. The structure of SWAMPB is verified through several phases. First, the operation of reservoirs with fixed (known) inflows, and modeled releases, are compared against WRMM for a historical simulation period (1928-2001). Further verifications compare the operation of SWAMPB as a whole without any fixed flows but fixed demands to identify errors in the system water allocation. A final verification then compares both models against historical flows and reservoir levels to assess the validity of each model. SWAMPB, although found to have some minor differences in model structure due to the system dynamics modeling environment, is to be evaluated as an acceptable emulator. SWAMPB is applied to assess a variety of management and policy solutions to mitigating environmental flow deficit. Solutions include increasing irrigation efficiency (S1), requiring more summer release from hydropower reservoirs at the headwaters (S2), a combination of the previous two (S3), implementing the In-Stream Flow Needs (S4) and implementing Water Conservation Objectives (S5). The solutions are not only examined by their ability to restore river flows, but also with respect to the economic consequences and effect on hydropower, irrigation, and municipalities. It is found that the three technical solutions (S1, S2, and S3) provide economic gains and allow more efficient water use, but do little to restore streamflows. Conversely, the two policy solutions (S4 and S5) are more effective at restoring river flow, but have severe consequences on the economy and water availability for irrigation and municipal uses. This analysis does not recommend a particular solution, but provides a quantification of the tradeoffs that can be used by stakeholders to make decisions. Further work on the SWAMP methodology is foreseen, to link SWAMPB with other models, enabling a comprehensive analysis across the entire SSRB.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentCivil and Geological Engineering
SupervisorElshorbagy, Amin; Wheater, Howard
CommitteeKhaliq, Naveed; Razavi, Saman; Feldman, Lisa R.
Copyright DateNovember 2015
Integrated Water Resources
multiple reservoir system
Bow River Basin
South Saskatchewan River Basin