Future water use and peak factors under climate change

According the prognoses of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), weather extremes, such as heat and drought, will become more frequent and long-lasting. Peaks in water consumption will consequently become more extreme and frequent. Such peaks are determinative for the production and transport capacity of drinking water. Quantifying the impact of climate change on peaks in water demand, together with predictions on demographic development, provides crucial basic information to underpin long-term decisions regarding the expansion or the reduction of production capacity.

Video (in Dutch, translation soon available):

In the context of research into the drinking water infrastructure’s capacity to satisfy enhanced peak demand, studies have been conducted over the past few years into the impact on water demand of climate change and demographic developments [Welfare Prosperity and Quality of Living Environment (WLO) scenarios]. The current climate prognoses with regard to water consumption are based on only two statistical analyses which make use of outdated climate scenarios. For a robust and updated measure of the impact of climate change on water consumption, it is important that consumption series from more water supply areas be studied.

The objective of this project is to understand peak factors in drinking water consumption under climate change, their possible secondary effects and adaptation possibilities. We do this by specifically quantifying the impact of weather extremes (drought, high temperatures, etc.) on water consumption.

Duidelijke relatie tussen temperatuur en waterverbruik (dagafzet Wpb Budel 2003). Bron: projectvoorstel

The clear relationship between temperature and water consumption (daily production at Wpb Budel 2003)

Measurement series and meteorological variables

We make use of existing, years-long measurement series of drinking water production and meteorological variables, as well as the latest KNMI’14 climate scenarios. We also focus on the water consumption during a number of recent heat waves.

The following are the activities involved:

  • Inventorization of water consumption data, selection of production sites to be studied, and characterisation of water consumption in selected supply areas.
  • Statistical analysis of climate impact on water use in reference areas.

Evaluation of water companies’ operational management during heat waves.

Insight into climate-dependent changes in water consumption

The project produces useful statistical relationships, which enable water company professionals to make short- and long-terms projections of climate-dependant changes in water consumption for their supply areas. If useful and feasible, the relationships are made available in a simple calculation tool, with which a specific company’s average daily production can be modified on the basis of weather variables and climate scenarios.

The research results make it possible for water companies to take the impact of climate change into account when projecting their long-term production and any associated investments in drinking water infrastructure.