W3 Seminar: Exploring the drivers and implications of water budget partitioning under a changing climate


11:45 am-12:35 pm
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Nathan Reaver, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Scientist
Water Institute

Title: Exploring the drivers and implications of water budget partitioning under a changing climate

A watershed’s water budget accounts for all its hydrologic inputs and outputs. At sufficiently large spatial and temporal scales, a watershed’s input precipitation is partitioned into either evapotranspiration or discharge. This partitioning ultimately governs the availability of terrestrial water resources within the watershed. Water that is not evapotranspired (i.e., discharge) is available for downstream ecosystems and anthropogenic demand. Understanding the primary drivers of water budget partitioning allows us to make predictions about water availability under future conditions.

When the long-term water budget partitioning behavior of multiple watersheds are arranged from humid to arid, a global pattern emerges, often referred to as the “Budyko curve”. This empirical relationship has been hypothesized to arise from co-evolution of watersheds’ biophysical properties and climate, but a definitive explanation remains elusive. The Budyko curve can be used to probabilistically estimate the water budget partitioning behavior of a watershed if its aridity is known. Recently, there has been significant effort to make specific predictions about future water availability by extrapolating the global Budyko curve behavior to individual watersheds. This seminar will investigate the validity of such extrapolations, as well as explore the fundamental drivers of water budget partitioning, attempt to explain the emergence of the Budyko curve, and discuss implications for water availability as drivers of partitioning change with climate.

Nathan Reaver is a Research Assistant Scientist at the University of Florida Water Institute. His research is primarily focused on understanding the dynamics of hydrological systems and forecasting how they respond to climate and anthropogenic perturbations. Within his research, he employs a multidisciplinary systems approach and often uses a combination of theoretical, observational, and experimental methods when investigating scientific questions. At the Water Institute, much of his work has utilized watershed modeling to explore how human and natural processes impact the quantity and quality of Florida’s water resources. Currently, Nathan is involved in two large interdisciplinary projects studying the impacts of changing land use, agricultural practices, and climate on the Floridan Aquifer, the Suwannee Estuary, and the regional agricultural and coastal economies. The goal of these projects is to help maintain the economic sustainability of agriculture while protecting downstream ecosystems and their water quantity and quality.

In addition to his focus on water, some of his broad research interests include: complex system dynamics; energy; ecosystem dynamics and restoration; and the nature of how scientific inferences are obtained from data. Nathan holds a B.S. and M.S. degree in Bioengineering from the University of Toledo and a M.E. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida.


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Howard T. Odum Center for Wetlands