Every resident, landowner, and city makes choices that ultimately impact their water footprint. We do not know with certainty what choices will be made in southwestern Idaho in the coming decades. But we can engage with stakeholders to understand the range of likely future choices, and evaluate a spectrum of scenarios that capture the implications of these choices for future water demand. We can also simulate how water moves through the landscape in rivers, canals, and in aquifers. In this way the predictive tools capture some of the key uncertainties about future water demand and supply. These include projected changes in water delivered due to climate change, anticipated changes in land use, and variation in the style of developments and associated consumptive water use.
Predictive tools can highlight regional areas with high potential for floods, water scarcity, or possible conflict between those who rely on water for different reasons. With the ability to view modeling results visually, stakeholders from water management agencies, regional planning associations, environmental groups, and local governments can articulate policies and preferences that the modeling framework needs to capture.
Idaho scientists are developing predictive tools to quantify future water supply and demand for sectors including agriculture, municipalities, industry, and recreation. These tools will help stakeholders in the region evaluate alternative growth and climate change scenarios (Figure 1).