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ARCC Water: Adaptive and Resilient Water Systems

Funders: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Reliable water supply is fundamental to human health and wellbeing, and in the UK is underpinned by inter-linked infrastructure for abstraction, storage, treatment and conveyance of potable and wastewater. Climate change (CC) has the potential to affect the UK water system in a number of ways: through changes in the water available for abstraction and storage, especially through altered drought frequency and intensity, changes in demand and changing risk of infrastructure failure.

Since 1997, Water Utilities have been obliged to include CC in long term water resource plans for their Periodic Reviews (PRs). The sophistication of this analysis has increased over time but remains focused on the effect of CC on Average Demand and Deployable Output on a Water Resource Zone (WRZ) basis, with limited consideration of the effects of climate change on the entire water resource system. An integrated ‘whole system’ analysis is required to identify long-term water resource plans in which portfolios of infrastructure and demand management options maintain secure supplies (increased reliability and reduced vulnerability to failure) and enhance the environment.


This project, conceived and formulated in close collaboration with stakeholder project-partners, will develop new methods and tools to:

  • Assess the risk of climate change impacts on water infrastructure systems and improve the performance of the water supply / demand system under future extreme events that will drive system failure (floods, droughts, heat waves).
  • Design robust water-supply infrastructure systems at regional and local scales by identifying packages of measures that guarantee reliable water supplies at competitive costs, meet carbon commitments and are socially and environmentally acceptable.

Key features of the research project:

  • A ‘multi-criteria robust decision analysis’ framework for formulating and evaluating alternative water supply plans / policies that ensure security of supply and meet economic, environmental and social objectives.
  • Systematic treatment of uncertainties associated with future climate, hydrology, socio-economics, demand/behaviour, and technology.
  • Multi-scale, enabling regional integrated assessment across multiple Water Utility supply areas and local authority boundaries, as well as smaller-scale assessment within individual supply areas.
  • New datasets and insights on future regional drought risk, critical infrastructure risk and demand-side adaptive capacity.
  • Build on, and add value to, existing research projects, methods and tools.

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