Solution specific articles for Water & Environmental Resources.

Colorado Decision Support Systems

Lynker staff have completed a number of contracts related to the development and implementation of decision support systems for the State of Colorado’s Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Among these efforts are the

1) Water Rights Model of Colorado Water District 6 for the South Platte DSS, a DSS component that captures the hundreds of water rights diversions and operations on Boulder Creek, including irrigation demands and subsurface return flows, trans-basin diversions from the Western Slope, municipal demands, instream flow rights, reservoir fill and release operations and changed water rights;

2) Spatial Systems Component for the South Platte DSS, which uses satellite imagery, aerial orthophotography and other data together with remote sensing and GIS-based analysis and interpretation to map current and historic irrigated lands, delineate agricultural parcels, and classify crops, all to allow water users and administrators to analyze and make decisions regarding the surface water, groundwater, and irrigated lands for the South Platte River basin;

3) Colorado River Water Availability Study, Phases I and II, which utilized statistically downscaled Global Climate Model outputs to develop projected changes in runoff that were used, initially, to modify Colorado River model inflows and ultimately to modify statewide Colorado DSS inflows for analysis of climate change effects across Colorado;

4) Climate Change Drought DSS, a cooperative project between the CWCB and NOAA to develop a prototype web-based DSS to enable water managers at various operational- and time-scales to assess the impact of predicted climate change on natural flows at critical nodes along a river network;

and 5) Colorado Flood DSS, a prototype web-based tool bringing together floodplain, historical flood, and multi-hazard information to demonstrate how the state could provide a clearinghouse of flood-hazard and flood-related information for use by floodplain administrators, emergency managers, developers, the insurance industry, government agencies, and the public.

Lynker creates the Future Avoided Cost Explorer: Colorado Hazards (FACE:Hazards)

In the past two decades, Colorado has experienced wildfires, sustained droughts, and intense flood events – natural hazards that have had significant impacts on the Colorado economy. The State of Colorado recognizes that these hazards can be exacerbated as climate change intensifies the severity of events, and a growing population puts more people into harm’s way. In response, the Colorado Department of Public Safety, in collaboration with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and FEMA, commissioned a statewide assessment of current and future risks from flood, drought, and wildfire.

The project expresses risk in terms of monetary impacts to select sectors of the Colorado economy, including private housing, public infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism. The information assembled can be used to stimulate the implementation of smart adaptation strategies and policy frameworks that strengthen vulnerable sectors in a rapidly changing environment. The analysis, led by Lynker Technologies, takes a probabilistic approach to quantify and monetize current risks in terms of expected annual damage (EAD). Models of each sector’s vulnerability to flood, drought, or wildfire were run with future climate and population conditions to estimate how those expected damages might change by the year 2050. For flooding and wildfire, the impacts to commercial buildings, residential buildings, and infrastructure are similar to the types of impacts that Hazus is designed to quantify and follow the Hazus methodologies closely. For drought, the monetary impacts focused on reduced economic output from agriculture and recreation.

As a semi-arid, headwater state with terrain ranging from the High Plains to Rocky Mountains, Colorado is exposed to major economic impacts from floods, droughts, and wildfires. Recent events such as the 2013 flood, the 2002 drought, and 2012 wildfire season are examples of the physical magnitude and economic damages such hazards can exact. These extreme events are becoming more severe and potentially more frequent as global climate dynamics change regional patterns.

Researchers expect floods to increase in severity, droughts to deepen and become more spatially expansive, and wildfire seasons to become longer with more acres burned in a warming climate. In addition, Colorado’s growing population is projected to reach between 7.7 and 9.3 million by 2050. With more residents comes greater natural hazard exposure if floodplain margins become developed, agricultural land shrinks, and the number of people in the wildland urban interface increases.

The first step to understanding and preparing for these events is to assess the possible risks—both now and in the future. This is done by quantifying the difference in economic costs between historic relationships and modeled future scenarios. Tasked by the Colorado Department of Public Safety to perform such an analysis, the objective of this project is to estimate the expected costs of floods, droughts, and wildfires to a selection of economic sectors under historic and future climate and population scenarios.

These sectors varied by the hazard being examined. For flooding, we evaluated impacts to buildings and bridges. For drought, we examined agricultural—crops and cattle—and outdoor recreation—skiing and rafting—impacts. For wildfire, we again analyzed buildings and also computed the cost of suppression, which is the amount the state spends to fight and extinguish ongoing fires. In total, we analyzed eight sectors, all of which have experienced observed economic damages in the tens of millions to billions of dollars due to natural hazards.

View and explore the FACE: Hazards dashboards to understand how changes in global climate patterns can lead to more frequent and intense hazards in Colorado.

Future Avoided Cost Explorer: Colorado Hazards (FACE:Hazards)

Lower Poudre River Flood Recovery and Resilience Master Plan

In response to the devastating flood of September 2013, the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW) hired Lynker to develop a flood recovery and resilience master plan for the Lower Poudre River. The project was funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Resilience Planning program.

The master planning effort combined scientific and engineering analysis with community collaboration to identify and prioritize opportunities to improve river resilience and river health. Components of the master plan include reach-by-reach analyses of changes to the historical channel, assessments of geomorphological and ecological values, identification of vulnerabilities, and sediment transport modeling. Lynker led a team of scientists, engineers, geomorphologists, ecologists, modelers and designers from Otak, AlpineEco and LVBrown Studio to create an informative, user-friendly master plan that provided recommendations through the project area.

A sediment transport model was built for the 36 miles of river in the project area, utilizing existing HEC-RAS model cross-sections to determine sediment transport capacity on a reach-by-reach basis. The model focused on the use of total effectiveness, which uses the river flow regime and their respective probability of occurrence to determine the river’s total sediment transport potential over time. Sediment bed samples were collected by performing pebble counts at pre-determined reach cross-sections. Each field visit was thoroughly documented with field data sheets and photos from a GPS camera.

The data collected for the project was used to compile a reach-by-reach river characterization and assessment to determine areas with the greatest need for future restoration work. The assessment included metrics for flood hazards, geomorphology, ecological and aquatic habitat, social vulnerability and local priorities. For instance, the project steering committee and the local community put a high emphasis on the integrity of the Poudre River Trail, a 21-mile paved path the closely follows the river for much of the project area. Therefore, the Poudre River Trail was included as an element of river assessment and the final Poudre River prioritization scoring.

The large project area showcased Lynker’s ability to develop river restoration projects through community outreach and adaptive priorities. The planning process included an extensive public outreach effort that drew on landowners and local community experiences to pinpoint vulnerable areas and important assets. Based on these meetings, a cultural aspect of the community was accounted for when developing restoration projects. Illustrative conceptual designs were developed for the high priority reaches while taking into consideration ongoing projects within the reaches. The master plan and sediment model developed for the Lower Poudre are intended to be continuously evaluated during future planning actions or assessments to make reach-scale decisions that can help inform the solutions that may be best for a reach.

NNDWR Gauge Network Optimization

The Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR) manages a network of rain cans, automated climate stations, stream gauges and snow monitoring gauges (both Snow Courses and SNOTEL sites).  The majority of these stations must be visited on a monthly basis by NNDWR staff to gather data and inspect the gauges for damage.  Nationwide budgetary constraints have forced the NNDWR to re-evaluate its gauge network to reduce field costs.

Lynker was hired to reduce the field effort required to maintain the NNDWR gauge network while optimizing the network’s ability to accurately predict rainfall across the entire Navajo Nation. At the project start, there were more than 110 stations that require regular visits across 27,000 sqmi of land, requiring a very large amount of monthly field work to visit, maintain and collect data from all the stations. The project team implemented an ArcGIS model to reduce by 30% the monthly field hours required to visit and monitor the rain gauge network while minimizing the measurement error introduced to the system by the removal of gages.

The impact of an increase in measurement error is best described in terms of the water that is “missed” as a result of the removal of a gauge.  The Volumetric Index of the Error of Water (VIEW) is the error in measurement multiplied by the average precipitation at any given grid cell.  The average precipitation used was the PRISM 30-year annual average dataset.

With a stringent requirement for field effort reduction, the primary means of network optimization was the removal of tipping bucket rain gauges.  A combination of factors led to the creation of optimized network test cases; gauge period of record, clustering with other gauges, rainfall measurement coverage within individual watersheds, and a qualitative evaluation by NNDWR staff of data quality and potential for vandalism at the gauge site.

Automated climate gauging stations were recommended to either be connected to the central NNDWR office through radio or cellular telemetry or were removed altogether to offset the high associated maintenance cost.  To improve precipitation prediction, scripted connections were created to existing data sources such as the NOAA-COOP rainfall network so the NNDWR could benefit from easy access to that data.

Reservoir and Irrigation District Water Supply Study

Lynker Technologies worked with a confidential client to provide water resources planning services in Western Europe. This work involved extensive collection and processing of rainfall, climate and hydrologic data from various European agencies. Once data collection was complete, Lynker developed a set of impacted future conditions under an ensemble of climate change projections. The hydrometeorological data as well as the future climate conditions were used to develop a water resources model to test different combinations of hydrology, water consumption, system operations and legal frameworks. Output from the model was used to provide the client with decision support for planning and infrastructure investment.

Projecting Climate Change Impacts to Extreme Temperature and Precipitation for Denver Water’s Infrastructure

Lynker worked with Denver Water, the University of Colorado and NCAR/UCAR staff to review a range of standard methods for characterizing future extreme precipitation and temperature events under climate change. The methods reviewed include downscaling projects like LOCA, MACA, BCSD and the CORDEX archive as well as point downscaling statistical approaches. This work involved both an extensive literature review covering the foundations of the methods as well as independent assessments of results from each method.  Once the literature review was complete, Lynker performed detailed statistical analyses to help Denver Water understand increases in frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall and heat events at a large set of locations.

California Ranch Climate Change Assessment

A climate-change impact analysis was completed for a confidential client in California. The purpose of the study was to provide climate-impacted hydrology (streamflow, irrigation water demand) for a future planning horizon. Our team provided a low-cost solution by utilizing existing Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) climate change runs processed through the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model. The future climate-impacted hydrology from 2020-2049 (streamflow, evapotranspiration) was compared to a baseline hydrology from 1970-1999, to determine a monthly set of “change factors” for water supply and water demand (streamflow and irrigation water demand, respectively). The change factors were applied to the historical hydrology datasets to create climate-adjusted timeseries for streamflow and water demand, which were used to evaluate future water supply conditions.

Lynker leads project on Snake River Plain Aquifer System

The Eastern Snake Plain region of Idaho produces approximately 21 percent of the state’s goods and services, resulting in an estimated value of $10 billion annually, and water is the critical element in the region’s productivity. The development of both groundwater and surface-water water use across the Eastern Snake Plain has led to conjunctive management of the common water resource. In an on-going contract with the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators (IGWA), Lynker provides oversight on both development of a regional groundwater model of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPAM) and its application in water resource management. ESPAM is a groundwater model developed by the State of Idaho as a tool to help quantify the impacts of current water use practices and/or proposed alternatives on the common water resource of the State across the Eastern Snake Plain.

Over the course of the multi-year, multi-task relationship, Lynker has provided the following services to the groundwater appropriators: water rights and expert witness support, groundwater modeling, conjunctive used analysis, consumptive use modeling, development and review of mitigation plans, and hydrologic baseline and historical water use analysis.

Mount Werner Water & Sanitation Macarthur/Yampa Meadows Alluvial Aquifer Investigation

Under contract with Mount Werner Water & Sanitation, Lynker was tasked with hydrologic and hydrogeologic data review and compilation for model inputs and framework development of a Yampa River alluvial aquifer MODFLOW model. Analysis included detailing the geographic and climatic setting and quantifying surface water groundwater interactions based on observed surface water and groundwater trends, aquifer testing of alluvial properties, and groundwater modeling. Modeling analysis included discretizing Yampa river channel geometry, developing streamflow records for model calibration, developing an annual water budget for the system, defining aquifer geometry and properties, and quantifying streambed conductance and associated accretions and depletions to the Yampa River and other surface water features.

The groundwater modeling analysis was used to assess present and potential future production from the alluvial aquifer infiltration galleries, quantify associated impacts to surface water features, and defining a capture zone to protect against water contamination concerns.

 

Drought Resilience Modeling – Stochastic Hydrology Modeling

United Utilities in the United Kingdom requested cutting-edge water resources modeling to more fully understand its water supply, especially as it relates to improving drought resilience. Lynker Technologies deployed a two-part stochastic simulation technique to model both the inter-annual flow sequences using a non-homogeneous Markov Chain (NHMC) model and the intra-annual variability using a k-nearest neighbor (KNN) nonparametric method. The flow simulation was performed simultaneously at four gauge locations so that the water system could be analyzed together as it is operated by the client.

The final output was 5,000 years of simulated streamflow at a daily timestep, which preserved spatial correlation between the sites, decadal variability of the streamflow, and seasonal trends while using empirically-based methods. The simulated streamflow data greatly expanded upon the 50-year observed record, which provides improved estimates of for instance the 100-year drought recurrence interval.