ICIWaRM kicks off Study on Risk-Based Hydrologic Engineering Standards under Climate Uncertainty

Planning for water infrastructure has always been challenging, but infrastructure planning under climate uncertainty brings additional difficulties. One such pressing issue is the need for, and the development of, risk-based approaches to engineering standards.

To begin to address this issue, three UNESCO IHP-affiliated (“category 2”) centers and the Water and Climate Department at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)co-convened a kick-off workshop on “Risk-Based Hydrologic Engineering Standards” on 24-25 April 2017. The meeting took place at the International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change (ICWRGC), which is located at the Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG) in Koblenz, Germany. The International Centre on Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) in Tsukuba, Japan participated, as did scientists and engineers from the US, Germany, Japan, Greece, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.

Eugene Stakhiv of ICIWaRM had previously produced a white paper on the workshop topic, and asked participants to address two main aspects of the problem:

Photo credit: Tetiana Matiash

  • Identifying those key existing hydrologic engineering standards that require updating and application of risk-based analytical approaches because they no longer effectively encompass the uncertainties associated with climate change; and
  • Looking ahead towards greater uniformity and integration at the watershed level, what reliable methods exist that are technically sound and could be readily adopted by the engineering profession for a more comprehensive integration of numerous interacting aspects of uncertainty – as in the management of a reservoir system.

Workshop participants were also asked to propose specific proposals, techniques or standards for substituting a new approach that would address the problem that was identified.

The next step will be to design a conceptual framework for considering the broad array of engineering standards that are used in planning, design, operations, and ‘national standards’, for topics such as flood risk and droughts. Existing and planned standards from the UK, US, EU, New Zealand, Australia and other countries will be included in the analysis, and methods for data poor regions of the world will also be examined.

A follow-up meeting is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2017.