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Water management performance curves for economic and environmental benefit

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Created: Sep 18, 2021 at 8 p.m.
Last updated: May 17, 2022 at 5:13 p.m.
DOI: 10.4211/hs.2db34ff1d64741028c0a69ac6e8e1e59
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Sharing Status: Published
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Water management usually considers economic and ecological objectives, and involves tradeoffs, conflicts, compromise, and cooperation among objectives. Pareto optimality often is championed in water management, but its relationships with the mathematical representation of objectives, and implications of tradeoffs for Pareto optimal decisions, are rarely examined. We evaluate the mathematical properties of optimized tradeoffs to identify promising regions for compromise, suggest strategies for reducing conflicts, and better understand whether decision-makers are more or less likely to cooperate over environmental water allocations. Cooperation and compromise among objectives can be easier when tradeoff curves are concave and more adversarial when tradeoff curves are convex. “Knees”, or areas with maximum curvature, bulges, or breakpoints in concave Pareto frontiers, suggest more promising areas for compromise. Evaluating the shape of Pareto curves based on each objective’s performance function can screen for the existence of knees amenable to compromise. We explore water management and restorations actions that improve and shift the location and prominence of knees in concave Pareto frontiers. Connecting river habitats and other non-flow management actions may add knees on locally concave regions of Pareto frontiers. Managing multiple streams regionally, rather than individually, can sometimes turn convex local tradeoffs into concave regional tradeoffs more amenable to compromise. Overall, this analysis provides a deep investigation of how the shape of tradeoffs influences the range and promise of decisions to improve performance, and illustrates that management actions may encourage cooperation and reduce conflict.

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Funding Agencies

This resource was created using funding from the following sources:
Agency Name Award Title Award Number
National Science Foundation Robust aquatic habitat representation for water resources decision-making 1653452

How to Cite

Null, S., M. A. Olivares, F. Cordera, J. Lund (2022). Water management performance curves for economic and environmental benefit, HydroShare,

This resource is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY.


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