Water Supply Planning Considering Uncertainties in Future Water Demand and Climate: A Case Study in an Illinois Watershed

Zhenxing Zhang, Elias Getahun, Mengfei Mu, Sangeetha Chandrasekaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ensuring an adequate, reliable, clean, and affordable water supply for citizens and industries requires informed, long-range water supply planning, which is critically important for water security. A balance between water supply and demand must be considered for a long-term plan. However, water demand projections are often highly uncertain. Climate change could impact the hydrologic processes, and consequently, threaten water supply. Thus, understanding the uncertainties in future water demand and climate is critical for developing a sound water supply plan. In Illinois, regional water supply planning attempts to explore the impacts of future water demand and climate on water supply using scenario analyses and hydrologic modeling. This study is aimed at developing a water supply planning framework that considers both future water demand and climate change impacts. This framework is based on the Soil and Water Assessment Tool to simulate the watershed hydrology and conduct scenario analyses that consider the uncertainties in both future water demand and climate as well as their impacts on water supply. The framework was applied to water supply planning efforts in the Kankakee River watershed. The Kankakee River watershed model was calibrated and validated to observed streamflow records at four long-term United States Geological Survey streamflow gages. Because of the many model parameters involved, the calibration process was automated and was followed by a manual refinement, resulting in good model performance. Long-range water demand projections were prepared by the Illinois State Water Survey. Six future water demand scenarios were established based on a suite of assumptions. Climate scenarios were obtained from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Projection Phase 5 datasets. Three representative concentration pathways (RCPs), RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5, are used in the study. The scenario simulation results demonstrated that climate change appears to have a greater impact on water availability in the study area than water demand. The framework developed in this study can also be used to explore the impacts of uncertainties of water demand and climate on water supply and can be extended to other regions and watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-465
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • SWAT
  • minimum flow
  • scenario analysis
  • water resources management
  • water supply
  • watershed model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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