Assessing reservoir performance under climate change. When is it going to be too late if current water management is not changed?

Cristián Chadwick, Jorge Gironás, Pilar Barría, Sebastián Vicuña, Francisco Meza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Climate change is modifying the way we design and operate water infrastructure, including reservoirs. A particular issue is that current infrastructure and reservoir management rules will likely operate under changing conditions different to those used in their design. Thus, there is a big need to identify the obsolescence of current operation rules under climate change, without compromising the proper treatment of uncertainty. Acknowledging that decision making benefits from the scientific knowledge, mainly when presented in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, such identification— and the corresponding uncertainty—must be clearly described and communicated. This paper presents a methodology to identify, in a simple and useful way, the time when current reservoir operation rules fail under changing climate by properly treating and presenting its aleatory and epistemic uncertainties and showing its deep uncertainty. For this purpose, we use a reliability– resilience–vulnerability framework with a General Circulation Models (GCM) ensemble under the four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios to compare the historical and future long-term reservoir system performances under its current operation rule in the Limarí basin, Chile, as a case study. The results include percentiles that define the uncertainty range, showing that during the 21st century there are significant changes at the time-based reliability by the 2030s, resilience between the 2030s and 2040s, volume-based reliability by the 2080s, and the maximum failure by the 2070s. Overall, this approach allows the identification of the timing of systematic failures in the performance of water systems given a certain performance threshold, which contributes to the planning, prioritization and implementation timing of adaptation alternatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision making
  • Reliability
  • Reservoir operation
  • Resilience
  • Time of emergence
  • Vulnerability


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