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Advancing Regional Water Supply Management and Infrastructure Investment Pathways that are Equitable, Robust, Adaptive, and Cooperatively Stable
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  • David F Gold,
  • Patrick M. Reed,
  • David E Gorelick,
  • Gregory W. Characklis
David F Gold
Cornell University

Corresponding Author:dfg42@cornell.edu

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Patrick M. Reed
Cornell University
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David E Gorelick
UNC Chapel Hill
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Gregory W. Characklis
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
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Regionalization approaches wherein utilities in close geographic proximity cooperate to manage drought risks and co-invest in new infrastructure are increasingly necessary strategies for leveraging economies of scale to meet growing demands and navigate deeply uncertain risks. Successful regional cooperative investment and management pathways, however, must equitably balance the interests of multiple partners while navigating power relationships between regional actors. In long-term infrastructure planning contexts, this challenge is heightened by the evolving system-state dynamics, which may be fundamentally reshaped by infrastructure investment. This work introduces Equitable, Robust, Adaptive, and Stable Deeply Uncertain Pathways (DU PathwaysERAS), an exploratory modeling framework for developing regional water supply management and infrastructure investment pathways. Our framework explores equity and power relationships within cooperative pathways using multiple rival framings of robustness, each representing a competing hypothesis about how performance objectives should be prioritized. To capture the time-evolving dynamics of infrastructure pathways, DU PathwaysERAS features new tools to measure the adaptive capacity of pathway policies and evaluate time-evolving vulnerability. We demonstrate our framework on a six-utility water supply partnership seeking to develop cooperative infrastructure investment pathways in the Research Triangle, North Carolina. Our results indicate that commonly employed framings of robustness can have large and unintended adverse consequences for regional equity. Results further illustrate that regional and individual vulnerabilities are highly interdependent, emphasizing the need to craft agreements that limit counterparty risks from the actions of cooperating partners. Beyond the Research Triangle, these results are broadly applicable to cooperative water supply infrastructure investment and management globally.