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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-167
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-167
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 23 Apr 2019

Research article | 23 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

WHAT-IF: an open-source decision support tool for water infrastructure investment planning within the Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus

Raphaël Payet-Burin1,2, Mikkel Kromann2, Silvio Pereira-Cardenal2, Kenneth Strzepek3, and Peter Bauer-Gottwein1 Raphaël Payet-Burin et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Kgs. Lyngby, 2800, Denmark
  • 2COWI A/S, Kgs. Lyngby, 2800, Denmark
  • 3MIT, Joint Program Sci & Policy Global Change, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Abstract. Water infrastructure investment planning must consider the interdependencies within the water-energy-food nexus. Moreover, uncertain future climate, evolving socio-economic context, and stakeholders with conflicting interests, lead to a highly complex decision problem. Therefore, there is a need for decision support tools to objectively determine the value of investments, considering the impacts on different groups of actors, and the risks linked to uncertainties. We present a new open-source hydroeconomic optimization model, linking in a holistic framework, representations of the water, agriculture, and power systems. The model represents the joint development of nexus-related infrastructure and policies and evaluates their economic impact, as well as the risks linked to uncertainties in future climate and socio-economic development. We apply the methodology in the Zambezi River Basin, a major African basin shared by eight countries, in which multiple investment opportunities exist, including new hydropower plants, new or resized reservoirs, development of irrigation agriculture, and investments into the power grid. We show that the linkage of the different systems is crucial to evaluate impacts of climate change and socio-economic development, which will ultimately influence investment decisions. We find that climate change could induce economic losses up to 2.3 billion dollars per year on the current system. We show that the value of the hydropower development plan is sensitive to future fuel prices, carbon pricing policies, the capital cost of solar technologies, and climate change. Similarly, we show that the value of the irrigation development plan is sensitive to the evolution of crop yields, world market crop prices and climate change. Finally, we evaluate the opportunity costs of restoring the natural floods in the Zambezi delta; we find limited economic trade-offs under the current climate, but potentially major trade-offs with irrigation and hydropower generation under climate change.

Raphaël Payet-Burin et al.
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Short summary
We present an open-source tool for water infrastructure investment planning considering interrelations between the water, food, and energy systems. We apply it to the Zambezi River Basin to evaluate economic impacts of hydropower and irrigation development plans. We find trade-offs between the development plans and sensitivity to uncertainties (e.g. climate change, carbon taxes, capital costs of solar technologies, environmental policies) demonstrating the necessity of an integrated approach.
We present an open-source tool for water infrastructure investment planning considering...
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