Understanding the Role of Snow and Upland Forests in the Food-Energy-Water System in the Willamette River Basin, Oregon

Authors: Anne W Nolin*, University of Nevada, Reno, Chad Higgins, Oregon State University, Stephen A Drake, University of Nevada, Reno, David R Conklin, Freshwater Simulations, Inc., Jordan Kern, North Carolina State University, Greg Charaklis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Topics: Mountain Environments, Water Resources and Hydrology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: snow, mountains, FEW, modelling, water resources, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The food-energy-water (FEW) nexus is a social-ecological system that is affected by factors such as climate change, population growth, income changes, institutions, and economic decisions. To predict changes in the FEW system first requires understanding linkages and feedbacks, and close collaboration with stakeholders. This work explores the impacts of climate warming, wildfire, and upland forest management on snowpack accumulation and retention in the Willamette River Basin (WRB), Oregon. Using a multi-module social-ecological systems model, we examine how changing snowpacks and forest management affect streamflow, reservoirs management for energy production and environmental flows, and water availability for municipalities and farms. Working closely with a diverse set of local stakeholders, we are exploring alternative futures that have the potential to be sustainable, desirable, and tractable. Here, we focus on two snow-related hypotheses: H1: Forest management strategies that address the combined effects of forest management and climate change can improve snowpack accumulation and retention, thereby increasing water yields for agriculture and decreasing the requirement for costly and energy-intensive forest fire suppression. H2: Current operational guidelines at multi-purpose reservoirs will fail to balance defined objectives for flood control, hydropower generation, water supply, and environmental stream flows when confronted with climate change and population growth, a shifting power generation mix (e.g., more solar) and more stringent environmental regulations. We present the latest version of the Envision Whole Watershed Model and results from proto-scenarios including a) impacts of changing snow-wildfire-forest management relationships; b) impacts of changing snowpacks on reservoir management and hydroelectric power trade-offs.

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