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WIREs Water
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Interdisciplinary assessment of complex regional water systems and their future evolution: how socioeconomic drivers can matter more than climate

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Modeling of future water systems at the regional scale is a difficult task due to the complexity of current structures (multiple competing water uses, multiple actors, formal and informal rules) both temporally and spatially. Representing this complexity in the modeling process is a challenge that can be addressed by an interdisciplinary and holistic approach. The assessment of the water system of the Crans‐Montana‐Sierre area (Switzerland) and its evolution until 2050 were tackled by combining glaciological, hydrogeological, and hydrological measurements and modeling with the evaluation of water use through documentary, statistical and interview‐based analyses. Four visions of future regional development were co‐produced with a group of stakeholders and were then used as a basis for estimating future water demand. The comparison of the available water resource and the water demand at monthly time scale allowed us to conclude that for the four scenarios socioeconomic factors will impact on the future water systems more than climatic factors. An analysis of the sustainability of the current and future water systems based on four visions of regional development allowed us to identify those scenarios that will be more sustainable and that should be adopted by the decision‐makers. The results were then presented to the stakeholders through five key messages. The challenges of communicating the results in such a way with stakeholders are discussed at the end of the article. WIREs Water 2014, 1:413–426. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1032 This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change Human Water > Water Governance
Situation of the study area.
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Today's water demand (in m3) during a ‘normal’ year (2010) and a dry year (2011). Hydropower production is not considered.
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The complexity of the regional water system. Municipalities have quite different water ‘profiles’ and supply networks are not fully interconnected.
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Annual water resources distribution for the wet year 2007, the dry year 2011, and for the mean annual values (2007–2011) in the eastern headwater region (Ertense to Tièche river), which is most important for the water supply of the Crans‐Montana‐Sierre region. The dotted lines are the projections for the near future around 2040.
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Modeled future runoff from the basin of Glacier de la Plaine Morte using the median climate evolution given by Regional Climate Models (RCMs). (a) Annual runoff from the entire glacier and estimated contribution to the South (eastern Crans‐Montana‐Sierre region) including uncertainty ranges. Mean runoff for two periods in the past is indicated. (b) Averaged daily runoff hydrographs for four periods between 1960 and 2100.
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Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Human Water > Water Governance

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