Using Climate Forecasts to Predict and Reduce Residential Irrigation Demands - Florida Climate Institute

Contact Person: Martinez, Christopher J.

Collaborators: R. Boyles, U. Hatch, J.L. Heitman, J.W. Jones, C. J. Martinez, C.H. Peacock, G. Wilkerson,

Institutions: North Carolina State University, University of Florida

Funding Agency: NOAA

Start: July 2009    End: June 2011

Status: Funded

Filed Under: Climate SciencesEducationExtensionWater

Abstract: This project will explore the possibilities for using historical climate data and climate forecasts to help urban water managers assess future residential irrigation demands and implement strategies to reduce those demands. Specific objectives include: 1) obtain and analyze historical water usage data from city water managers in North Carolina and Florida; 2) investigate strategies for reducing irrigation water use in urban areas without adversely affecting turfgrass health; and 3) determine possible benefits of using one- to three-month climate forecasts to project potential water demands for residential lawns. City water managers in two North Carolina and two Florida cities have agreed to cooperate in this study. They will supply data which will be used to estimate per household irrigation water usage in recent years when water restrictions of different magnitudes were in place. This will serve as a baseline for comparison. Using historical climate data, available from NOAA, we will simulate alternative turfgrass irrigation strategies for residential lawns. We will assume that irrigation can occur under a variety of scenarios, including whenever needed, or limited by different types of restrictions. A daily drought index will be calculated for each simulated irrigation strategy. Optimal irrigation strategies which minimize water use, while keeping the drought index within acceptable limits, will be determined for each location, turfgrass, and season. We will generate and evaluate one- to three-month drought forecasts using a) ENSO phase, and b) Climate Prediction Center one- and three-month outlooks. Simulation results will be used to evaluate the potential contribution of improved irrigation methods in the overall portfolio of potential conservation and efficiency measures used by urban water systems. This project will characterize, and help reduce, climate-related risk and vulnerability faced by urban water managers as they make decisions. It will provide methodology and simulation and analysis tools which can be used to assess the effects of climate variability or climate change on residential irrigation demands in other locations and situations.