A grand challenge for current and future generations is to promote sustainable water systems. Willamette Water 2100 is a comprehensive effort to identify the communities and ecosystems whose water systems are most vulnerable or to specify how these communities and ecosystems can best adapt. Led by Mountain Sentinels co-PI, Anne Nolin, a team of researchers at Oregon State University (OSU), the University of Oregon (UO), and Portland State University (PSU), are conducting an integrated hydrological, ecological, and socioeconomic study of the water system in the Willamette River Basin. They address these questions:

Where are climate change and human activity most likely to create conditions of water scarcity?

Where is water scarcity most likely to exert the greatest impact on ecosystems and communities?

What strategies allow communities to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to scarcity most successfully?

To address these questions, the team conducted the following activities:

Model the system. Study the water system via the a comprehensive, highly integrated examination of hydrological, ecological, and socio-economic factors.

Explain interactions. Identify and quantify the linkages and feedbacks among hydrologic, ecological, and socio-economic dimensions of the water system.

Identify vulnerabilities. Determine where and when climate change and human activities will create water scarcities.

Compare alternatives. Evaluate a broad range of strategies that could enable this region to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to water scarcities.

Simplify. Create a novel, highly transferable method of predicting where climate change and human activities will create water scarcities in other regions and where those scarcities would exert the strongest impact on society.

The simulation model ‘Envision’ is used in this effort to provide an integrative tool for assessing alternative future scenarios. Envision will couple state-of-the-art hydrological, ecological, and socio-economic models within a framework that incorporates policies and resource management and thus can simulate alternative landscape scenarios.