Professor Bill Jaeger, along with Professor Christian Langpap, former PhD student Dan Bigelow, and former faculty member Andrew Plantinga and others, recently published a study titled “Finding Water Scarcity Amid Abundance Using Human-Natural System Models,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). PNAS is the official scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is based on a large 6-year research project, Willamette Water 2100, that projected current and future water scarcity in the Willamette River basin of western Oregon through the year 2100. Researchers developed a computer model called Willamette Envision to represent the fine-level interactions between the basin’s natural water supply and the human system’s water demands. Willamette Water 2100 modeled 20 different scenarios based on a variety of assumptions, including assumptions of low, medium, and high population and income growth, and low, medium, and high warming from climate change. 

A key finding of the study was the importance of economics for understanding water scarcity. In modeling the effects of climate change, the researchers found that the human components of the model, such as economic realities and society’s laws and institutions that can create or block opportunities, make a big difference in where, when, and how severely the impacts of water scarcity will be felt.