Water Resources Management

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 3579–3594 | Cite as

Representing Local Dynamics of Water Resource Systems through a Data-Driven Emulation Approach

  • Shahin Zandmoghaddam
  • Ali NazemiEmail author
  • Elmira Hassanzadeh
  • Shadi Hatami


Water resource systems are under enormous pressures globally. To diagnose and quantify potential vulnerabilities, effective modeling tools are required to represent the interactions between water availability, water demands and their natural and anthropogenic drivers across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Despite significant progresses, system models often undergo various level of simplifications. For instance, several variables are represented within models as prescribed values; and therefore, their links with their natural and anthropogenic drives are not represented. Here we propose a data-driven emulation approach to represent the local dynamics of water resource systems through advising a set of interconnected functional mappings that not only learn and replicate input-output relationships of an existing model, but also link the prescribed variables to their corresponding natural and anthropogenic drivers. To demonstrate the practical utility of the suggested methodology, we consider representing the local dynamics at the Oldman Reservoir, which is a critical infrastructure for effective regional water resource management in southern Alberta, Canada. Using a rigorous setup/falsification procedure, we develop a set of alternative emulators to describe the local dynamics of irrigation demand and withdrawals along with reservoir release and evaporation. The non-falsified emulators are then used to address the impact of changing climate on the local irrigation deficit. Our analysis shows that local irrigation deficit is more sensitive to changes in local temperature than those of local precipitation. In addition, the rate of change in irrigation deficit is much more significant under a unit degree of warming than a unit degree of cooling. Such local understandings are not attainable by the existing operational model.


Regional water resource systems Local system dynamics Emulation approach Data-driven modeling Sensitivity analysis Oldman River basin 



The financial support of this study is provided by various sources, including Government of Quebec’s Graduate Studentship, Concordia University’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science Research Support, National Science and Engineering Research Council’s Discovery Grant and Quebec’s Fond du Recherche Nature et Technologies’ New Researcher Award. We would like to thank the Editorial Board, the Associate Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their extremely constructive comments that improve the quality of this piece as a whole.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no Conflict of Interest.

Supplementary material

11269_2019_2319_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (953 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 953 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Building, Civil and Environmental EngineeringConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Geological and Mining EngineeringPolytechnique MontrealMontrealCanada

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