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Possible Topics and Questions for Future Study Of the topics discussed by the meeting participants, the following may constitute topics for fruitful future studies and contributions to the next stage of ACF-ACT water resources planning: 1) Drought, climate change/variability, and impacts and responses Potential studies under these topics could take several different forms: assessments of past climate changes and streamflow impacts; studies of how future precipitation shortfalls and higher summer temperatures might affect water supplies, allocations, and withdrawals; and evaluations of past climate impacts and societal responses. 2) W ater supply availability under different population growth scenarios These studies could consider how different patterns and different magnitudes of future population growth may stress existing supplies and allocation schemes and agreements. 3) Prospects for operational adjustments and adaptive management in the ACF-ACT systems Given this region’s steady increases in population, the possibility of a shift to a drier climate regime, and large uncertainties in ecosystem responses to human actions, it may be a good candidate for implementation of some principles of adaptive management. In addition, many water managers and users in the region are interested in the capacity of the ACF-ACT system to provide reliable supplies to water users under different water availability and storage scenarios. 4) Ecosystem responses to different flow scenarios Many users and water managers are interested in further details of how different flows into Apalachicola Bay will affect ecology and species of concern. The Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the states all could benefit by better understanding these phenomena, as it could provide a better footing for ACF-ACT operations decisions, such as setting water release schedules from Buford Dam. Given the importance of this topic to so many stakeholders, it would seem valuable to strengthen the scientific connection between flow levels and ecosystem responses in the lower rivers. 8 PREPUBLICA TION
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Possible Topics and Questions for Further Study 9 5) Prospects for using more social sciences-demographics-economics studies Reservoir releases and other water management decisions are based partly on economic and social preferences and values. As this region continues to grow, and as the uses of and preferences for water change, more information on the values of water, prices paid by different users, population growth patterns, and so on could be useful to users and decision makers. These analyses could explicitly incorporate consideration of economic and social values of ecosystem services. 6) Clarification of values regarding amounts of water withdrawal rates and uses There continue to be some uncertainties regarding the “water balance” for the ACF-ACT region. Meeting participants, for instance, offered different values in describing the City of Atlanta’s water use as a percentage of water in the ACF basin. Better information on topics such as water uses and demands; water availability; water withdrawals; water table levels, and so on, could aid water management decisions and long-term planning. 7) Demand side management and design studies This could include prospects for broader and more aggressive demand side management of water resources, from the aggregation of site-scale specific water-conserving design to collaborative transboundary watershed conservation. In each case, estimating region-wide benefits of demand management measures and technologies is a key scientific issue. Such studies also could go beyond the ACF-ACT region and learn from demand management approaches and techniques employed in other parts of the nation or in arid areas around the world. 8) W ater reuse Some meeting participants discussed the prospects for water reuse in a variety of applications. This certainly is a prominent topic in water conservation discussions and has been a viable option in several areas and applications mainly in the arid western and southwestern U.S. for many years. As drought and water shortages are relatively new issues in the southeastern U.S., there may be great opportunities for water reuse in the region, which could be identified and assessed in a study(ies). 9) Transboundary water management issues and institutional arrangements The extensive body of litigation among the states and the federal government over ACF-ACT water issues suggests that an assessment of federal-state, and interstate, agreements and institutions may be of value. For instance, there is a large and growing literature on transboundary water cooperation and conflict, and future basinwide management in the ACF- ACT region could benefit by evaluations of transboundary agreements that have proven useful in other parts of the U.S. and other parts of the world. Water managers in the ACF-ACT region also could consult with experts who have helped mediate disputes over shared water resources. 10) Ecosystem services PREPUBLICA TION
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10 Summary of a Workshop on Water Issues in the ACT-ACT River Basins A challenge in allocating limited water supplies to benefit aquatic ecosystems and species is that the economic values of ecosystem “goods and services” are difficult to quantify and in most cases have not been monetized. It is difficult to make accurate comparisons between the value of ecosystems and sectors in which dollar values of economic activity (e.g., hydropower sales; commercial navigation; agricultural products) are more readily available. Some experts assert that the limited information on the market value of ecosystem goods and services puts them in an inferior position compared to other water use sectors. In any case, more explicit quantitative information about the values of ecosystem services, in Apalachicola Bay and elsewhere, could improve the knowledge base of ACF-ACT water management decisions. 1 1) Alternative processes for gathering stakeholder input Although the Corps of Engineers used a “Shared Vision Model” as a collaborative approach in a comprehensive study conducted in the 1990s, several meeting participants stated that it was important to encourage broader participation for future ACF-ACT decisions. There are different ways by which stakeholder input might be solicited and weighted in making ACF-ACT allocation and operations decisions. These could include informal meetings among stakeholders and decision makers, the use of computer-based decision support systems, and other approaches employed by the Corps of Engineers in other river and water systems. The Corps has accumulated considerable experience with the Shared Vision Model in many regions, and the Corps’ ongoing study of Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration has employed multi- criteria and risk-informed decision making processes as means of soliciting stakeholder input. An evaluation of these and other techniques for encouraging stakeholder input and advice, and how they might be employed in the ACF-ACT region, could be of value. PREPUBLICA TION
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Summary and Future Directions An overarching theme from the workshop is that across the region, water demands for multiple uses are beginning to exceed available supplies. Several workshop participants asserted that a comprehensive, proactive, and forward-looking—two to three decades hence—assessment of the ACF-ACT river systems could be of considerable value in planning for future water management in the face of growing and competing demands. A systems-level evaluation of the region’s water supplies and demands; broad water management options; and environmental, ecological, and socio-economic impacts of alternative regulation strategies and could encompass several of the topics and issues raised by workshop participants. For example, a basinwide assessment could consider: • hydrologic and storage characteristics, including groundwater aquifer storage and groundwater-surface water interactions; • i mplications of drought and climate variability for storage and demand; • changes in population and water demand patterns; • better information on water requirements and withdrawals of all users—municipal and industrial, ecosystem goods and services, irrigation, hydropower generation, commercial navigation, and recreation being the primary ones; • environmental implications to Apalachicola Bay of different flow regimes; • alternative approaches to augmenting water supply (e.g., water reuse); • demand management prospects; and, • system operation alternatives and their implications. Several meeting participants noted the importance of broad stakeholder input as part of such a study. Advocates of a forward-looking assessment assert that such studies could support a more positive and collaborative strategic vision and direction for planning the region’s water resources and provide an alternative to continued, expensive litigation over narrower, current issues. The Congress also seems to recognize the value of such an approach, as pending federal legislation would “provide for a comprehensive study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to assess the water management, needs, and conservation of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River System” (see the full text of H.R. 1901 in Appendix D). 11 PREPUBLICA TION
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12 Summary of a Workshop on Water Issues in the ACT-ACT River Basins PREPUBLICA TION