Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 118-134

First online:

A Framework for Assessing Climate Change Impacts on Water and Watershed Systems

  • Thomas E. JohnsonAffiliated withU.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Global Change Research Program Email author 
  • , Christopher P. WeaverAffiliated withU.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Global Change Research Program

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In this article we present a framework for assessing climate change impacts on water and watershed systems to support management decision-making. The framework addresses three issues complicating assessments of climate change impacts—linkages across spatial scales, linkages across temporal scales, and linkages across scientific and management disciplines. A major theme underlying the framework is that, due to current limitations in modeling capabilities, assessing and responding to climate change should be approached from the perspective of risk assessment and management rather than as a prediction problem. The framework is based generally on ecological risk assessment and similar approaches. A second theme underlying the framework is the need for close collaboration among climate scientists, scientists interested in assessing impacts, and resource managers and decision makers. A case study illustrating an application of the framework is also presented that provides a specific, practical example of how the framework was used to assess the impacts of climate change on water quality in a mid-Atlantic, U.S., watershed.


Climate Assessment Framework Decision support Management Risk Uncertainty Monocacy