MORDM VII: Optimality, robustness, and reevaluation under deep uncertainty

In the previous MORDM post, we visualized the reference set of performance objectives for the North Carolina Research Triangle and conducted a preliminary multi-criterion robustness analysis using two criteria: (1) regional reliability should be at least 98%, and (2) regional restriction frequency should be not more than 20%. Using these metrics, we found that Pareto-optimality does not guarantee satisfactory robustness, a statement that is justified by showing that not all portfolios within the reference set satisfied the robustness criteria.

In this post, we will explain the differences between optimality and robustness, and justify the importance of robust optimization instead of sole reliance on a set of optimal solutions (aka an optimal portfolio). To demonstrate the differences better, we will also reevaluate the Pareto optimal set of solutions under a more challenging set of states of the world (SOWs), a method first used in Herman et al (2013, 2014) and Zeff et al (2014). The formal term for this method, Deeply Uncertain (DU) Re-evaluation was coined in a 2019 paper by Trindade et al.

Optimality vs robustness

The descriptions of optimality are many. From a purely technical perspective, a Pareto optimal set is a set of decision variables or solutions that maps to a Pareto front, or a set of performance objectives where improving one objective cannot be improved without causing performance degradation in another. For the purposes of this blog post, we shall use the definition of optimality as laid out by Beyer and Sendoff in their 2007 paper:

The global optimal design…depends on the…(objective) functions and constraints…however, these functions always represent models and/or approximations of the real world.

Beyer and Sendhoff (2007)

In other words, a Pareto reference set is only optimal within the bounds of the model it was generated from. This makes sense; models are only approximations of the real world. It is difficult and computationally expensive to have bounds on the degree of certainty to which the model optimum maps to the true optimum due to uncertainties driven by human action, natural variability, and incomplete knowledge. Optimization is static in relation to reality – the set of solutions found do not change with time, and only account for the conditions within the model itself. Any deviation from this set of solutions or unaccounted differences between the actual system and model may result in failure (Herman et al, 2015; Read et al 2014).

This is why searching the set of optimal solutions for robust solutions is important. Herman et al (2015) quotes an earlier works by Matalas and Fiering (1977) that defines robustness as the insensitivity a system’s portfolio to uncertainty. Within the MORDM context, robustness was found to be best defined using the multi-criterion satisficing robustness measure (Herman et al, 2015), which refers to the ability of a solution to meet one or more requirements (or criteria) set by the decision-makers when evaluated under a set of challenging scenarios. More information on alternative robustness measures can be found here.

In this blog post, we will begin to explore this concept of robustness by conducting DU Re-evaluation, where we will perform the following steps:

Generate a set of ROF tables from a more challenging set of SOWs

Recall that we previously stored our Pareto-optimal solution set in a .csv file names ‘NC_refset.csv’ (find the original Git Repository here). Now, we will write a quick Python script (called rof_tables_reeval.py in the Git Repository) using MPI4PY that will parallelize and speed up the ROF table generation and the bash script to submit the job. More information on parallelization using MPI4PY can be found in this handy blog post by Dave Gold.

First, create a Python virtual environment within the folder where all your sourcecode is kept and activate the virtual environment. I called mine python3_venv:

python3 -m venv python_venv
source python_venv/bin/activate

Next, install the numpy and mpi4py libraries:

pip install numpy mpi4py

Then write the Python script as follows:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
"""
Created on Tues March 1 2022 16:16
@author: Lillian Bei Jia Lau
"""

from mpi4py import MPI
import numpy as np
import subprocess, sys, time
import os

# 5 nodes, 50 RDMs per node
# 16 tasks per node
# 5 RDMs per task
comm = MPI.COMM_WORLD
rank = comm.Get_rank() # up to 20 processes
print('rank = ', rank)

N_RDMs_needed = 100
N_REALIZATIONS = 100
N_RDM_PER_NODE = 20
N_TASKS_PER_NODE = 10 
N_RDM_PER_TASK = 2 # each task handles two RDMs
N_TASKS = 50 # rank ranges from 0 to 50

DATA_DIR = "/scratch/lbl59/blog/WaterPaths/"
SOLS_FILE_NAME = "NC_dvs_all_noheader.csv"
N_SOLS = 1

OMP_NUM_THREADS = 32

for i in range(N_RDM_PER_TASK):
    current_RDM = rank + (N_TASKS * i)

    command_gen_tables = "./waterpaths -T {} -t 2344 -r {} -d {} -C 1 -O rof_tables_reeval/rdm_{} -e 0 \
            -U TestFiles/rdm_utilities_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -W TestFiles/rdm_water_sources_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -P TestFiles/rdm_dmp_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -s {} -f 0 -l {} -R {}\
            -p false".format(OMP_NUM_THREADS, N_REALIZATIONS, DATA_DIR, current_RDM, SOLS_FILE_NAME, N_SOLS, current_RDM)

    print(command_gen_tables)
    os.system(command_gen_tables)

comm.Barrier()

Before proceeding, a quick explanation on what all this means:

  • Line 12: We are parallelizing this job across 5 nodes on Cornell’s THECUBE (The Cube) computing cluster.
  • Lines 19-28: On each node, we are submitting 10 tasks to each of the 5 nodes requested. Each task, in turn, is handling 2 robust decision-making (RDM) multiplier files that scale up or scale down a hydroclimatic realization make a state of the world more (or less) challenging. In this submission, we are creating 400 different variations of each hydroclimatic scenario using the 400 RDM files, and running it across only one solution
  • Line 16 and 31: The ‘rank’ is the order of the tasks in which there are submitted. Since there are 10 tasks over 5 nodes, there will be a total of 50 tasks being submitted. Note and understand how the current_RDM is calculated.
  • Lines 32 to 37: This is the command that you are going to submit to The Cube. Note the -C and -O flags; a value of 1 for the -C flag tells WaterPaths to generate ROF tables, and the -O tells WaterPaths to output each ROF table file into a folder within rof_tables_reeval/rdm_{}for each RDM. Feel free to change the filenames as you see fit.

To accompany this script, first create the following folders: output, out_reeval, and rof_tables_reeval. The output folder will contain the simulation results from running the 1 solution across the 100 hydroclimatic realizations. The out_reeval folder will store any output or error messages such as script runtime.

Then, write the following bash submission script:

#!/bin/bash
#SBATCH -n 50 -N 5 -p normal
#SBATCH --job-name=rof_tables_reeval
#SBATCH --output=out_reeval/rof_tables_reeval.out
#SBATCH --error=out_reeval/rof_tables_reeval.err
#SBATCH --time=200:00:00
#SBATCH --mail-user=lbl59@cornell.edu
#SBATCH --mail-type=all

export OMP_NUM_THREADS=32

module load openmpi3/3.1.4
module spider py3-mpi4py
module spider py3-numpy/1.15.3

START="$(date +%s)"

mpirun python3 rof_tables_reeval.py

DURATION=$[ $(date +%s) - ${START} ]

echo ${DURATION}

You can find the bash script under the filename rof_table_gen_reeval.sh. Finally, submit the script using the following line:

sbatch ./rof_table_gen_reeval.sh

The run should take roughly 5 hours. We’re good for some time!

Re-evaluate your solutions (and possibly your life choices, while you’re at it)

Once the ROF tables are generated, it’s time to get a little hands-on with the underlying WaterPaths code. Navigate to the following PaperTestProblem.cpp file using:
cd /yourfilepath/WaterPaths/src/Problem/

Follow the next steps carefully.

  1. Delete PaperTestProblem.cpp and replace it with the file PaperTestProblem-reeval.cpp. It can be found in the the main Git Repository.
  2. Rename the latter file PaperTestProblem.cpp – it will be the new PaperTestProblem file that will be able to individually read each RDM scenario’s ROF tables.
  3. Re-make WaterPaths by calling make clean and then make gcc in the command line. This will ensure that WaterPaths has no problems running the new PaperTestProblem.cpp file.

Next, write the following Python script (called run_du_reeval.py in the Git repository):

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
"""
Created on Tues March 1 2022 16:16

@author: Lillian Bei Jia Lau
"""

from mpi4py import MPI
import numpy as np
import subprocess, sys, time
import os

N_RDMs_needed = 100  # N_TASKS_PER_NODE * N_RDM_PER_TASK * num nodes
N_REALIZATIONS = 100
N_RDM_PER_NODE = 20
N_TASKS_PER_NODE = 10 # rank ranges from 0 to 15
N_RDM_PER_TASK = 2 # each task handles five RDMs
N_TASKS = 50

comm = MPI.COMM_WORLD
rank = comm.Get_rank() # up to 20 processes
print('rank = ', rank)

DATA_DIR = "/scratch/lbl59/blog/WaterPaths/"
SOLS_FILE_NAME = "NC_dvs_all_noheader.csv"
N_SOLS = 69
OMP_NUM_THREADS = 32

for i in range(N_RDM_PER_TASK):
    current_RDM = rank + (N_TASKS * i)

    command_run_rdm = "./waterpaths -T {} -t 2344 -r {} -d {} -C -1 -O rof_tables_reeval/rdm_{} -e 0 \
            -U TestFiles/rdm_utilities_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -W TestFiles/rdm_water_sources_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -P TestFiles/rdm_dmp_test_problem_reeval.csv \
            -s {} -R {} -f 0 -l 69\
            -p false".format(OMP_NUM_THREADS, N_REALIZATIONS, DATA_DIR, \
                    current_RDM , SOLS_FILE_NAME, current_RDM)

    print(command_run_rdm)
    os.system(command_run_rdm)

comm.Barrier()

Note the change in the -C flag; its value is now -1, telling WaterPaths that it should import the ROF table values from the folder indicated by the -O flag. The resulting objective values for each RDM will be saved in the output folder we previously made.

The accompanying bash script, named du_reeval.sh is as follows:

#!/bin/bash
#SBATCH -n 50 -N 5 -p normal
#SBATCH --job-name=mordm_training_du_reeval
#SBATCH --output=out_reeval/mordm_training_du_reeval.out
#SBATCH --error=out_reeval/mordm_training_du_reeval.err
#SBATCH --time=200:00:00
#SBATCH --mail-user=lbl59@cornell.edu
#SBATCH --mail-type=all

export OMP_NUM_THREADS=32
module load openmpi3/3.1.4
module spider py3-numpy/1.15.3

START="$(date +%s)"

mpirun python3 run_du_reeval.py

DURATION=$[ $(date +%s) - ${START} ]

echo ${DURATION}

This run should take approximately three to four days. After that, you will have 1000 files containing 69 objective value sets resulting from running the 69 solutions across 1000 deeply-uncertain states of the world.

Summary

In this post, we defined optimality and robustness. We demonstrated how to run a DU re-evaluation across 100 challenging SOWs to observe how these ‘optimal’ solutions perform in more extreme scenarios. This is done to show that optimality is bound by current model states, and any deviation from the expected circumstances as defined by the model may lead to degradations in performance.

In the next blog post, we will be visualizing these changes in performance using a combination of sensitivity analysis, scenario discovery, and tradeoff analysis.

References

Beyer, H. and Sendhoff, B., 2007. Robust optimization – A comprehensive survey. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 196(33-34), pp.3190-3218.

Herman, J., Reed, P., Zeff, H. and Characklis, G., 2015. How Should Robustness Be Defined for Water Systems Planning under Change?. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 141(10), p.04015012.

Herman, J., Zeff, H., Reed, P. and Characklis, G., 2014. Beyond optimality: Multistakeholder robustness tradeoffs for regional water portfolio planning under deep uncertainty. Water Resources Research, 50(10), pp.7692-7713.

Matalas, N. C., and Fiering, M. B. (1977). “Water-resource systems planning.” Climate, climatic change, and water supply, studies in geophysics, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 99–110.

Read, L., Madani, K. and Inanloo, B., 2014. Optimality versus stability in water resource allocation. Journal of Environmental Management, 133, pp.343-354.

Zeff, H., Kasprzyk, J., Herman, J., Reed, P. and Characklis, G., 2014. Navigating financial and supply reliability tradeoffs in regional drought management portfolios. Water Resources Research, 50(6), pp.4906-4923.

MORDM Basics IV: Visualizing ROF-Storage Dynamics (finally)

The previous post described a simple, two-objective test case in which the city of Cary employed risk-of-failure (ROF) triggers as levers to adjust for its preferred tradeoff level between its objectives. The example given showed how ROF triggers allowed Cary to account for future uncertainty in its system inputs, thus enabling it to visualize how their risk appetite would affect their desired outcomes.

In meeting these objectives, different risk thresholds would have affected Cary’s response to extreme events such as floods and droughts, and its ability to fulfill demand. Simply analyzing the tradeoffs between objectives that result from a range of ROF trigger values only presents one side of the story. It is vital to visualize how these performance objectives and tradeoffs manifest in the system’s capacity (pun intended) to store enough water in times of scarcity, and by extension, its ability to fulfill its customers’ demand for water.

Using ROFs allow us to more concretely measure how the dynamics of both storage and demand fulfillment evolve and change over time for a given risk tolerance. In the long term, these dynamics will influence when and where new water infrastructure is built to cope with storage requirements and demand growth, but this is a topic for a future blog post. This week, we will focus on unpacking the dynamic evolution of storage and demand in response to different ROF trigger values.

As a quick refresher, our system is a water supply utility located in Cary, which is a city within the Research Triangle region in North Carolina (Trindade et al, 2017). Cary uses water-use restrictions when a weekly ROF exceeds the threshold of risk that Cary is willing to tolerate (α) during which only 50% of demand is met. More frequent water use restrictions help to maintain the reservoir levels and ensure reliability, which was defined in the previous blog post. However, the decision to implement restrictions (or not) will impact the storage levels of the system. With this in mind, we will first examine storage responds to the triggering of a water use restriction. For context, we consider a scenario in which Cary’s inflow timeseries is only 20% of the original levels. Figure 1 below shows the inflow, demand and storage timeseries for this scenario.

Figure 1: The hydrologic timeseries for Cary given that no water restrictions are implemented in a scenario where inflows are 20% of the original levels.

Cary’s challenge becomes apparent in Figure 1. While inflow decreases over time (fewer peaks), demand is steadily growing and has effectively tripled by the end of the period. This results in periods during which storage levels drop to zero, which occurs once past 2040. Also note that the frequency of low storage peaks have increased in the second half of the period. The following questions can thus be posed:

  1. How does the system’s ROF change with increasing demand and decreasing supply?
  2. How does risk tolerance affect the implementation of water-use restrictions during drought?
  3. How will the system reservoir levels respond to different levels of risk tolerance?
Figure 2: The length of the pink bars denote the nth-week during which the first water use restriction was implemented for a given α-value. This is an indicator of the responsiveness of the system to a drought, or decrease in storage levels. The blue line indicates the percent of storage filled with water.

To answer the first question, it is useful to identify how different values of α affect the first instance of a water-use restriction. Figure 2, generated using ‘rof_dynamics.py‘, demonstrates that lower risk tolerances result in earlier implementations of restrictions. This is reasonable, as an actor who more risk-averse will quickly implement water-use restrictions to maintain reliable levels of storage during a drought. However, an actor who is more willing to tolerate the change of low reservoir levels will delay implementing water use restrictions. The blue line juxtaposed on top of the bars indicates the inflows to the reservoir. After the first period of low flows between weeks 30-40, the plot shows that the amount of inflows do not recover, and is likely insufficient to fill the reservoir to initial levels. With a lower α, an actor is more likely to implement restrictions almost immediately after observing merely a few weeks of low inflows. In contrast, an actor who opts for a higher α will only resort to restrictions after seeing an extended period of low flows during which they can be more certain that restrictions are absolutely necessary.

Answering the second and third questions first require that periods of drought are more definitively quantified. To do this, the standardized streamflow indicator (SSI6) was used. The SSI6 is a method that identifies time periods during which the standardized inflow is less than the 6-month rolling mean (Herman et al, 2016). It detects a drought period when the value of the SSI6 < 0 for three consecutive months and SSI6 < -1 at least once during the three-month period. The juxtaposition of storage-restrictions and the periods of drought will allow us to see where restrictions were imposed and its impacts on reservoir levels for a given demand timeseries.

Figure 3 and Figure 4 are a visualization of how the system’s storage levels responds to drought (the red bars in the lower subplot) by implementing water-use restrictions (the dark red lines in the upper subplot) given α = 1% and α = 15% respectively. Predictably, restrictions coincide with periods of drought as defined by the SSI6. However, with a lower risk tolerance, period of restrictions are longer and more frequent. As Figure 3 shows, an actor with a lower risk tolerance may implement restrictions where only a slight risk of failure exists.

Figure 3: Storage dynamics given α=1%. (Upper subplot) The blue lines indicate the reservoir storage levels in billion gallons per week. The yellow lines are the weekly ROF values, or the likelihood that the percent of water stored will drop below 20% of the reservoir levels. The grey lines indicate where water use restrictions are implemented, and the red dashed line denotes α=2%. (Lower subplot) The zones are where droughts were detected using the SSI6 (Herman et al, 2016) method are highlighted in red.

Compared to α = 1%, an actor who is willing to tolerate higher ROF values (Figure 4 as an example) will implement restrictions less frequently and for shorter periods of time. Although this means that demands are less likely to get disrupted, this also puts water supplies at a higher risk of dropping to critical levels (<20%), as restrictions may not get implemented even during times of drought.

Figure 4: Storage dynamics given α=15%. (Upper subplot) The blue lines indicate the reservoir storage levels in billion gallons per week. The yellow lines are the weekly ROF values, or the likelihood that the percent of water stored will drop below 20% of the reservoir levels. The grey lines indicate where water use restrictions are implemented, and the red dashed line denotes α=15%. (Lower subplot) The zones are where droughts were detected using the SSI6 (Herman et al, 2016) method are highlighted in red.

There is one important thing to note when comparing Figures 3 and 4. When the periods water use restrictions coincide for both α-values (between 2040 and 2050), the actor with a lower tolerance implements water use restrictions at the beginning of both drought periods. This decision makes the biggest difference in terms of the reservoir storage levels. By implementing water use restrictions early and for a longer period of time, Cary’s reservoir levels are consistently kept at levels above 50% of full capacity (given full capacity of 7.45 BG). A different actor with higher risk tolerance resulted in water levels that dropped below the 30% of full capacity during periods of drought.

Although this seems undesirable, recall that the system is said to have failed if the capacity drops below 20% of full capacity. Herein lies the power of using an ROF metric – questions 2 and 3 can be answered by generating storage-restriction response figures as shown in the above figures, which allows an actor to examine the consequences of being varying levels of risk tolerance on their ability to fulfill demand while maintaining sufficient water levels. This ability can improve judgement on how much risk a utility can actually tolerate without adversely impacting the socioeconomic aspects of the systems dependent on a water supply utility. In addition, using ROFs enable a utility to better estimate when new infrastructure really needs to be built, instead of making premature investments as a result of unwarranted risk aversion.

To briefly summarize this blog post, we have shown how different risk tolerance levels affect the decisions made by an actor, and how these decisions in turn impact the system. Not shown here is the ability of an ROF to evolve over time given climate change and the building of new water supply infrastructure. In the next blog post, we will briefly discuss the role of ROFs in mapping out adaptation pathways for a utility, how ROFs form the basis of a dynamic and adaptive pathway and their associated operation policies, and connect this to the concept of the soft path (Gleick, 2002) in water supply management.

References

Gleick, P., 2002. Water management: Soft water paths. Nature, 418(6896), pp.373-373.

Herman, J., Zeff, H., Lamontagne, J., Reed, P. and Characklis, G., 2016. Synthetic Drought Scenario Generation to Support Bottom-Up Water Supply Vulnerability Assessments. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 142(11), p.04016050.

Trindade, B., Reed, P., Herman, J., Zeff, H. and Characklis, G., 2017. Reducing regional drought vulnerabilities and multi-city robustness conflicts using many-objective optimization under deep uncertainty. Advances in Water Resources, 104, pp.195-209.

MORDM Basics II: Risk of Failure Triggers and Table Generation

Previously, we demonstrated the key concepts, application, and validation of synthetic streamflow generation. A historical inflow timeseries from the Research Triangle region was obtained, and multiple synthetic streamflow scenarios were generated and validated using the Kirsch Method (Kirsch et. al., 2013). But why did we generate these hundreds of timeseries? What is their value within the MORDM approach, and how do we use them?

These questions will be addressed in this blog post. Here, we will cover how risk of failure (ROF) triggers use these synthetic streamflow timeseries to dynamically assess a utility’s ability to meet its performance objectives on a weekly basis. Once more, we will be revisiting the Research Triangle test case.

Some clarification

Before proceeding, there are some terms we will be using frequently that require definition:

  1. Timeseries – Observations of a quantity (e.g.: precipitation, inflow) recorded within a pre-specified time span.
  2. Simulation – A set of timeseries (synthetic/historical) that describes the state of the world. In this test case, one simulation consists of a set of three timeseries: historical inflow and evaporation timeseries, and one stationary synthetic demand timeseries.
  3. State of the world (SOW) – The “smallest particle” to be observed, or one fully realized world that consists of the hydrologic simulations, the set deeply-uncertain (DU) variables, and the system behavior under different combinations of simulations and DU variables.
  4. Evaluation – A complete sampling of the SOW realizations. One evaluation can sample all SOWs, or a subset of SOWs.

About the ROF trigger

In the simplest possible description, risk of failure (ROF) is the probability that a system will fail to meet its performance objective(s). The ROF trigger is a measure of a stakeholder’s risk tolerance and its propensity for taking necessary action to mitigate failure. The higher the magnitude of the trigger, the more risk the stakeholder must be willing to face, and the less frequent an action is taken.

The ROF trigger feedback loop.

More formally, the concept of Risk-of-Failure (ROF) was introduced as an alternative decision rule to the more traditional Days-of-Supply-Remaining (DSR) and Take-or-Pay (TOP) approaches in Palmer and Characklis’ 2009 paper. As opposed to the static nature of DSR and TOP, the ROF method emphasizes flexibility by using rule-based logic in using near-term information to trigger actions or decisions about infrastructure planning and policy implementation (Palmer and Characklis, 2009).

Adapted from the economics concept of risk options analysis (Palmer and Characklis, 2009), its flexible, state-aware rules are time-specific instances, thus overcoming the curse of dimensionality. This flexibility also presents the possibility of using ROF triggers to account for decisions made by more than one stakeholder, such as regional systems like the Research Triangle.

Overall, the ROF trigger is state-aware, system-dependent probabilistic decision rule that is capable of reflecting the time dynamics and uncertainties inherent in human-natural systems. This ability is what allows ROF triggers to aid in identifying how short-term decisions affect long-term planning and vice versa. In doing so, it approximates a closed-loop feedback system in which decisions inform actions and the outcomes of the actions inform decisions (shown below). By doing so, the use of ROF triggers can provide system-specific alternatives by building rules off historical data to find triggers that are robust to future conditions.

ROF triggers for water portfolio planning

As explained above, ROF triggers are uniquely suited to reflect a water utility’s cyclical storage-to-demand dynamics. Due to their flexible and dynamic nature, these triggers can enable a time-continuous assessment (Trindade et. al., 2019) of:

  1. When the risks need to be addressed
  2. How to address the risk

This provides both operational simplicity (as stakeholders only need to determine their threshold of risk tolerance) and system planning adaptability across different timescales (Trindade et. al., 2019).

Calculating the ROF trigger value, α

Cary is located in the red box shown in the figure above
(source: Trindade et. al., 2019).

Let’s revisit the Research Triangle test case – here, we will be looking at the data from the town of Cary, which receives its water supply from the Jordan Lake. The necessary files to describe the hydrology of Cary can be found in ‘water_balance_files’ in the GitHub repository. It is helpful to set things up in this hypothetical scenario: the town of Cary would like to assess how their risk tolerance affects the frequency at which they need to trigger water use restrictions. The higher their risk tolerance, the fewer restrictions they will need to implement. Fewer restrictions are favored as deliberately limiting supply has both social and political implications.

We are tasked with determining how different risk tolerance levels, reflected by the ROF trigger value α, will affect the frequency of the utility triggering water use restrictions. Thus, we will need to take the following steps:

  1. The utility determines a suitable ROF trigger value, α.
  2. Evaluate the current risk of failure for the current week m based on the week’s storage levels. The storage levels are a function of the historical inflow and evaporation rates, as well as projected demands.
  3. If the risk of failure during m is at least α, water use restrictions are triggered. Otherwise, nothing is done and storage levels at week m+1 is evaluated.

Now that we have a basic idea of how the ROF triggers are evaluated, let’s dive in a little deeper into the iterative process.

Evaluating weekly risk of failure

Here, we will use a simple analogy to illustrate how weekly ROF values are calculated. Bernardo’s post here provides a more thorough, mathematically sound explanation on this method.

For now, we clarify a couple of things: first we have two synthetically-generated datasets for inflow and evaporation rates that are conditioned on historical weekly observations (columns) and SOWs (rows). We also have one synthetically-generated demand timeseries conditioned on projected demand growth rates (and yes, this is were we will be using the Kirsch Method previously explained). We will be using these three timeseries to calculate the storage levels at each week in a year.

The weekly ROFs are calculated as follows:

We begin on a path 52 steps from the beginning, where each step represents weekly demand, dj where week j∈[1, 52]

We also have – bear with me, now – a crystal ball that let’s us gaze into n-multiple different versions of past inflows and evaporation rates.

At step mj:

  1. Using the crystal ball, we look back into n-versions of year-long ‘pasts’ where each alternative past is characterized by:
    • One randomly-chosen annual historical inflow timeseries, IH beginning 52 steps prior to week mj
    • One randomly-chosen annual historical evaporation timeseries, EH beginning 52 steps prior to week mj
    • The chosen demand timeseries, DF beginning 52 steps prior to week mj
    • An arbitrary starting storage level 52 weeks prior to mj, S0
  2. Out of all the n-year-long pasts that we have gazed into, count the total number of times the storage level dropped to below 20% of maximum at least once, f.
  3. Obtain the probability that you might fail in the future (or ROF), pf = ROF =  f/n
  4. Determine if ROF > α.
  5. Take your next step:

This process is repeated for all the k-different hydrologic simulations.

Here, the “path” represents the projected demand timeseries, the steps are the individual weekly projected demands, and the “versions of the past” are the n-randomly selected hydrologic simulations that we have chosen to look into. It is important that n ≥ 50 for the ROF calculation to have at least 2% precision (Trindade et. al., 2019).

An example

For example, say you (conveniently) have 50 years of historical inflow and evaporation data so you choose n=50. You begin your ROF calculation in Week 52. For n=1, you:

  1. Select the demands from Week 0-51.
  2. Get the historical inflow and evaporation rates for Historical Year 1.
  3. Calculate the storage for each week, monitoring for failure.
  4. If failure is detected, increment the number of failures and move on to n=2. Else, complete the storage calculations for the demand timeseries.

This is repeated n=50 times, then pf is calculated for Week 52.

You then move on to Week 53 and repeat the previous steps using demands from Week 1-52. The whole process is completed once the ROFs in all weeks in the projected demand timeseries has been evaluated.

Potential caveats

However, this process raises two issues:

  1. The number of combinations of simulations and DU variables are computationally expensive
    • For every dj DF, n-simulations of inflows and evaporation rates must be run k-times, where k is the total number of simulations
    • This results in (n × k) computations
    • Next, this process has to be repeated for as many SOWs that exist (DU reevaluation). This will result in (n × k × number of DU variables) computations
  2. The storage values are dynamic and change as a function of DF, IH and EH

These problems motivate the following question: can we approximate the weekly ROF values given a storage level?

ROF Tables

To address the issues stated above, we generate ROF tables in which approximate ROF values for a given week and given storage level. To achieve this approximation, we first define storage tiers (storage levels as a percentage of maximum capacity). These tiers are substituted for S0 during each simulation.

Thus, for each hydrologic simulation, the steps are:

  1. For each storage tier, calculate the ROF for each week in the timeseries.
  2. Store the ROF for a given week and given storage level in an ROF table unique to the each of the k-simulations
  3. This associates one ROF value with a (dj, S0) pair

The stored values are then used during the DU reevaluation, where the storage level for a given week is approximated to its closest storage tier value, Sapprox in the ROF table, negating the need for repeated computations of the weekly ROF value.

The process of generating ROF tables can be found under rof_table_generator.py in the GitHub repository, the entirety of which can be found here.

Conclusion

Previously, we generated synthetic timeseries which were then applied here to evaluate weekly ROFs. We also explored the origins of the concept of ROF triggers. We also explained how ROF triggers encapsulate the dynamic, ever-changing risks faced by water utilities, thus providing a way to detect the risks and take adaptive and mitigating action.

In the next blog post, we will explore how these ROF tables can be used in tandem with ROF triggers to assess if Cary’s water utility will need to trigger water use restrictions. We will also dabble in varying the value of ROF triggers to assess how different risk tolerance levels, action implementation frequency, and individual values can affect a utility’s reliability by running a simple single-actor, two-objective test.

References

Kirsch, B. R., Characklis, G. W., & Zeff, H. B. (2013). Evaluating the impact of alternative hydro-climate scenarios on transfer agreements: Practical improvement for generating synthetic streamflows. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 139(4), 396-406. doi:10.1061/(asce)wr.1943-5452.0000287

Palmer, R. N., & Characklis, G. W. (2009). Reducing the costs of meeting regional water demand through risk-based transfer agreements. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(5), 1703-1714. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2008.11.003

Trindade, B., Reed, P., & Characklis, G. (2019). Deeply uncertain pathways: Integrated multi-city regional water supply infrastructure investment and portfolio management. Advances in Water Resources, 134, 103442. doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2019.103442

MORDM Basics I: Synthetic Streamflow Generation

In this post, we will break down the key concepts underlying synthetic streamflow generation, and how it fits within the Many Objective Robust Decision Making (MORDM) framework (Kasprzyk, Nataraj et. al, 2012). This post is the first in a series on MORDM which will begin here: with generating and validating the data used in the framework. To provide some context as to what we are about to attempt, please refer to this post by Jon Herman.

What is synthetic streamflow generation?

Synthetic streamflow generation is a non-parametric, direct statistical approach used to generate synthetic streamflow timeseries from a reasonably long historical record. It is used when there is a need to diversify extreme event scenarios, such as flood and drought, or when we want to generate flows to reflect a shift in the hydrologic regime due to climate change. It is favored as it relies on a re-sampling of the historical record, preserving temporal correlation up to a certain degree, and results in a more realistic synthetic dataset. However, its dependence on a historical record also implies that this approach requires a relatively long historical inflow data. Jon Lamontagne’s post goes into further detail regarding this approach.

Why synthetic streamflow generation?

An important step in the MORDM framework is scenario discovery, which requires multiple realistic scenarios to predict future states of the world (Kasprzyk et. al., 2012). Depending solely on the historical dataset is insufficient; we need to generate multiple realizations of realistic synthetic scenarios to facilitate a comprehensive scenario discovery process. As an approach that uses a long historical record to generate synthetic data that has been found to preserve seasonal and annual correlation (Kirsch et. al., 2013; Herman et. al., 2016), this method provides us with a way to:

  1. Fully utilize a large historical dataset
  2. Stochastically generate multiple synthetic datasets while preserving temporal correlation
  3. Explore many alternative climate scenarios by changing the mean and the spread of the synthetic datasets

The basics of synthetic streamflow generation in action

To better illustrate the inner workings of synthetic streamflow generation, it is helpful to use a test case. In this post, the historical dataset is obtained from the Research Triangle Region in North Carolina. The Research Triangle region consists of four main utilities: Raleigh, Durham, Cary and the Orange County Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). These utilities are receive their water supplies from four water sources: the Little River Reservoir, Lake Wheeler, Lake Benson, and the Jordan Lake (Figure 1), and historical streamflow data is obtained from ten different stream gauges located at each of these water sources. For the purpose of this example, we will be using 81 years’ worth of weekly streamflow data available here.

Figure 1: The Research Triangle region (Trindade et. al., 2019).

The statistical approach that drive synthetic streamflow generation is called the Kirsch Method (Kirsch et. al., 2013). In plain language, this method does the following:

  1. Converts the historical streamflows from real space to log space, and then standardize the log-space data.
  2. Bootstrap the log-space historical matrix to obtain an uncorrelated matrix of historical data.
  3. Obtain the correlation matrix of the historical dataset by performing Cholesky decomposition.
  4. Impose the historical correlation matrix upon the uncorrelated matrix obtained in (2) to generate a standardized synthetic dataset. This preserves seasonal correlation.
  5. De-standardize the synthetic data, and transform it back into real space.
  6. Repeat steps (1) to (5) with a historical dataset that is shifted forward by 6 months (26 weeks). This preserves year-to-year correlation.

This post by Julie Quinn delves deeper into the Kirsch Method’s theoretical steps. The function that executes these steps can be found in the stress_dynamic.m Matlab file, which in turn is executed by the wsc_main_rate.m file by setting the input variable p = 0 as shown on Line 27. Both these files are available on GitHub here.

However, this is simply where things get interesting. Prior to this, steps (1) to (6) would have simply generated a synthetic dataset based on only historical statistical characteristics as validated here in Julie’s second blog post on a similar topic. Out of the three motivations for using synthetic streamflow generation, the third one (exploration of multiple scenarios) has yet to be satisfied. This is a nice segue into out next topic:

Generating multiple scenarios using synthetic streamflow generation

The true power of synthetic streamflow generation lies in its ability to generate multiple climate (or in this case, streamflow) scenarios. This is done in stress_dynamic.m using three variables:

Input variableData type
pThe lowest x% of streamflows
nA vector where each element ni is the number of copies of the p-lowest streamflow years to be added to the bootstrapped historical dataset.
mA vector where each element mi is the number of copies of the (1-p)-highest streamflow years to be added to the bootstrapped historical dataset.
Table 1: The input variables to the stress_dynamic function.

These three variables bootstrap (increase the length of) the historical record while allow us to perturb the historical streamflow record streamflows to reflect an increase in frequency or severity of extreme events such as floods and droughts using the following equation:

new_hist_years = old_historical_years + [(p*old_historical_years)*ni ] + (old_hist_years – [(p*old_historical_years)mi])

The stress_dynamic.m file contains more explanation regarding this step.

This begs the question: how do we choose the value of p? This brings us to the topic of the standardized streamflow indicator (SSI6).

The SSI6 is the 6-month moving average of the standardized streamflows to determine the occurrence and severity of drought on the basis of duration and frequency (Herman et. al., 2016). Put simply, this method determines the occurrence of drought if the the value of the SSI6 < 0 continuously for at least 3 months, and SSI6 < -1 at least once during the 6-month interval. The periods and severity (or lack thereof) of drought can then be observed, enabling the decision on the length of both the n and m vectors (which correspond to the number of perturbation periods, or climate event periods). We will not go into further detail regarding this method, but there are two important points to be made:

  1. The SSI6 enables the determination of the frequency (likelihood) and severity of drought events in synthetic streamflow generation through the values contained in p, n and m.
  2. This approach can be used to generate flood events by exchanging the values between the n and m vectors.

A good example of point (2) is done in this test case, in which more-frequent and more-severe floods was simulated by ensuring that most of the values in m where larger than those of n. Please refer to Jon Herman’s 2016 paper titled ‘Synthetic drought scenario generation to support bottom-up water supply vulnerability assessments’ for further detail.

A brief conceptual letup

Now we have shown how synthetic streamflow generation satisfies all three factors motivating its use. We should have three output folders:

  • synthetic-data-stat: contains the synthetic streamflows based on the unperturbed historical dataset
  • synthetic-data-dyn: contains the synthetic streamflows based on the perturbed historical dataset

Comparing these two datasets, we can compare how increasing the likelihood and severity of floods has affected the resulting synthetic data.

Validation

To exhaustively compare the statistical characteristics of the synthetic streamflow data, we will perform two forms of validation: visual and statistical. This method of validation is based on Julie’s post here.

Visual validation

Done by generating flow duration curves (FDCs) . Figure 2 below compares the unperturbed (left) and perturbed (right) synthetic datasets.

Figure 2: (Above) The FDC of the unperturbed historical dataset (pink) and its resulting synthetic dataset (blue). (Below) The corresponsing perturbed historical and synthetic dataset.

The bottom plots in Figure 2 shows an increase in the volume of weekly flows, as well as an smaller return period, when the the historical streamflows were perturbed to reflect an increasing frequency and magnitude of flood events. Together with the upper plots in Figure 2, this visually demonstrates that the synthetic streamflow generation approach (1) faithfully reconstructs historical streamflow patterns, (2) increases the range of possible streamflow scenarios and (3) can model multiple extreme climate event scenarios by perturbing the historical dataset. The file to generate this Figure can be found in the plotFDCrange.py file.

Statistical validation

The mean and standard deviation of the perturbed and unperturbed historical datasets are compared to show if the perturbation resulted in significant changes in the synthetic datasets. Ideally, the perturbed synthetic data would have higher means and similar standard deviations compared to the unperturbed synthetic data.

Figure 3: (Above) The unperturbed synthetic (blue) and historical (pink) streamflow datasets for each of the 10 gauges. (Below) The perturbed counterpart.

The mean and tails of the synthetic streamflow values of the bottom plots in Figure 3 show that the mean and maximum values of the synthetic flows are significantly higher than the unperturbed values. In addition, the spread of the standard deviations of the perturbed synthetic streamflows are similar to that of its unperturbed counterpart. This proves that synthetic streamflow generation can be used to synthetically change the occurrence and magnitude of extreme events while maintaining the periodicity and spread of the data. The file to generate Figure 3 can be found in weekly-moments.py.

Synthetic streamflow generation and internal variability

The generation of multiple unperturbed realizations of synthetic streamflow is vital for characterizing the internal variability of a system., otherwise known as variability that arises from natural variations in the system (Lehner et. al., 2020). As internal variability is intrinsic to the system, its effects cannot be eliminated – but it can be moderated. By evaluating multiple realizations, we can determine the number of realizations at which the internal variability (quantified here by standard deviation as a function of the number of realizations) stabilizes. Using the synthetic streamflow data for the Jordan Lake, it is shown that more than 100 realizations are required for the standard deviation of the 25% highest streamflows across all years to stabilize (Figure 4). Knowing this, we can generate sufficient synthetic realizations to render the effects of internal variability insignificant.

Figure 4: The highest 25% of synthetic streamflows for the Jordan Lake gauge.

The file internal-variability.py contains the code to generate the above figure.

How does this all fit within the context of MORDM?

So far, we have generated synthetic streamflow datasets and validated them. But how are these datasets used in the context of MORDM?

Synthetic streamflow generation lies within the domain of the second part of the MORDM framework as shown in Figure 5 above. Specifically, synthetic streamflow generation plays an important role in the design of experiments by preserving the effects of deeply uncertain factors that cause natural events. As MORDM requires multiple scenarios to reliably evaluate all possible futures, this approach enables the simulation of multiple scenarios, while concurrently increasing the severity or frequency of extreme events in increments set by the user. This will allow us to evaluate how coupled human-natural systems change over time given different scenarios, and their consequences towards the robustness of the system being evaluated (in this case, the Research Triangle).

Figure 4: The taxonomy of robustness frameworks. The bold-outlined segments highlight where MORDM fits within this taxonomy (Herman et. al., 2015).

Typically, this evaluation is performed in two main steps:

  1. Generation and evaluation of multiple realizations of unperturbed annual synthetic streamflow. The resulting synthetic data is used to generate the Pareto optimal set of policies. This step can help us understand how the system’s internal variability affects future decision-making by comparing it with the results in step (2).
  2. Generation and evaluation of multiple realizations of perturbed annual synthetic streamflow. These are the more extreme scenarios in which the previously-found Pareto-optimal policies will be evaluated against. This step assesses the robustness of the base state under deeply uncertain deviations caused by the perturbations in the synthetic data and other deeply uncertain factors.

Conclusion

Overall, synthetic streamflow generation is an approach that is highly applicable in the bottom-up analysis of a system. It preserves historical characteristics of a streamflow timeseries while providing the flexibility to modify the severity and frequency of extreme events in the face of climate change. It also allows the generation of multiple realizations, aiding in the characterization and understanding of a system’s internal variability, and a more exhaustive scenario discovery process.

This summarizes the basics of data generation for MORDM. In my next blog post, I will introduce risk-of-failure (ROF) triggers, their background, key concepts, and how they are applied within the MORDM framework.

References

Herman, J. D., Reed, P. M., Zeff, H. B., & Characklis, G. W. (2015). How should robustness be defined for water systems planning under change? Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 141(10), 04015012. doi:10.1061/(asce)wr.1943-5452.0000509

Herman, J. D., Zeff, H. B., Lamontagne, J. R., Reed, P. M., & Characklis, G. W. (2016). Synthetic drought scenario generation to support bottom-up water supply vulnerability assessments. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 142(11), 04016050. doi:10.1061/(asce)wr.1943-5452.0000701

Kasprzyk, J. R., Nataraj, S., Reed, P. M., & Lempert, R. J. (2013). Many objective robust decision making for complex environmental systems undergoing change. Environmental Modelling & Software, 42, 55-71. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.12.007

Kirsch, B. R., Characklis, G. W., & Zeff, H. B. (2013). Evaluating the impact of alternative hydro-climate scenarios on transfer agreements: Practical improvement for generating synthetic streamflows. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 139(4), 396-406. doi:10.1061/(asce)wr.1943-5452.0000287

Mankin, J. S., Lehner, F., Coats, S., & McKinnon, K. A. (2020). The value of initial condition large ensembles to Robust Adaptation Decision‐Making. Earth’s Future, 8(10). doi:10.1029/2020ef001610

Trindade, B., Reed, P., Herman, J., Zeff, H., & Characklis, G. (2017). Reducing regional drought vulnerabilities and multi-city robustness conflicts using many-objective optimization under deep uncertainty. Advances in Water Resources, 104, 195-209. doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2017.03.023