Water Resource Planning Under Future Climate and Socio-Economic Uncertainty in the Cauvery River Basin in Karnataka, India

Decision‐Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) approaches have been less utilized in developing countries than developed countries for water resources contexts. High climate vulnerability and rapid socioeconomic change often characterize developing country contexts, making DMUU approaches relevant. We develop an iterative multi‐method DMUU approach, including scenario generation, coproduction with stakeholders and water resources modeling. We apply this approach to explore the robustness of adaptation options and pathways against future climate and socioeconomic uncertainties in the Cauvery River Basin in Karnataka, India. A water resources model is calibrated and validated satisfactorily using observed streamflow. Plausible future changes in Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) precipitation and water demand are used to drive simulations of water resources from 2021 to 2055. Two stakeholder‐identified decision‐critical metrics are examined: a basin‐wide metric comprising legal instream flow requirements for the downstream state of Tamil Nadu, and a local metric comprising water supply reliability to Bangalore city. In model simulations, the ability to satisfy these performance metrics without adaptation is reduced under almost all scenarios. Implementing adaptation options can partially offset the negative impacts of change. Sequencing of options according to stakeholder priorities into Adaptation Pathways affects metric satisfaction. Early focus on agricultural demand management improves the robustness of pathways but trade‐offs emerge between intrabasin and basin‐wide water availability. We demonstrate that the fine balance between water availability and demand is vulnerable to future changes and uncertainty. Despite current and long‐term planning challenges, stakeholders in developing countries may engage meaningfully in coproduction approaches for adaptation decision‐making under deep uncertainty.

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