Stationarity is dead: whither water management

Author(s): Milly, P.C.D., J. Betancourt, M. Falkenmark, R.M. Hirsch, Z.W. Kundzewicz, D.P. Lettenmaier, R.J. Stouffer.
In: Science 319:573-574.
Year: 2008
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Landscapes
Link to centre authors: Falkenmark, Malin
Full reference: Milly, P.C.D., J. Betancourt, M. Falkenmark, R.M. Hirsch, Z.W. Kundzewicz, D.P. Lettenmaier, R.J. Stouffer. 2008. Stationarity is Dead: Whither Water Management. Science 319:573-574.

Publication review

- The world faces enormous challenges in building new water infrastructure due to an uncertain and changing climate future, this Science article states.

The article, entitled Stationarity is Dead: Whither Water Management?, is co-written by Stockholm Resilience Centre researcher Malin Falkenmark.

Together with an international group of researchers she states that current water infrastructure, channel modifications and drainage works increasingly affect flood risk, water supply and water quality.

Current assumptions are dead
The researchers claim that new models must replace current stationarity-based models on water resources characteristics in view of predicted changes in natural water systems. In other words, future water infrastructure planning can not be based on old measurements because of the climate changes.

- In view of the magnitude and ubiquity of the hydroclimatic change apparently now under way, we assert that stationarity is dead and should no longer serve as a central, default assumption in water-resource risk assessment and planning, the article says.

No time for "wait-and-see"
The changes in climate affects both water cycle and water supply and there is a broad scientific consensus that action must be taken.

- Recent development have led us to the opinion that the time has come to move beyond the wait-and-see approach, Falkenmark and her co-writers state.

They call for better communication between the scientific campus and water planners on issues that regard climate change and water systems.

- Rapid flow of such climate change information from the scientific realm to water managers will be critical for planning, because the information base is likely to change rapidly as climate science advances during the coming decades.

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