The Cone of Uncertainty


The effect of climate change on water supply in the Colorado Basin is so hard to predict that Marc Waage of Denver Water is working with his colleagues to revolutionize the way they plan for the future, using a model called the "Cone of Uncertainty."  

The cone demonstrates the depth and width of our uncertainty, extending lengthwise into the future and expanding outward toward infinite possibility. The idea is to prepare for what is common to a range of possible scenarios, setting yourself up to adapt to as many of the variations as possible.

Waage is the first to admit that this cone really just reinforces how uncertain things are. But hey! At least we know that it's a cone of uncertainty  and not... a cube...or a sphere.

Don't worry. To move toward more "robust decision making" in the face of all this doubt and uncertainty, Denver Water folks will use computer modeling that can account for regulatory, environmental, technical, social and economic variables, spitting out a huge range of possible scenarios and devising more contingency plans than our human minds could ever fathom. If you aren't sure how this will make that cone of uncertainty any narrower, just remember, there are a few facts we can cling to, even if they have started to sound like a broken record:

It's getting drier. Try on this well-known study by the Scripps Institution, in case you haven't already. 

 3 out of Colorado's 4 water basins are over-appropriated.

At least 30 million people depend on Colorado water.




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