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Machine Learning Tools for Water Resources Modeling and Management  

Giorgio Guariso and Matteo Sangiorgio

The pervasive diffusion of information and communication technologies that has characterized the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries has profoundly impacted the way water management issues are studied. The possibility of collecting and storing large data sets has allowed the development of new classes of models that try to infer the relationships between the variables of interest directly from data rather than fit the classical physical and chemical laws to them. This approach, known as “data-driven,” belongs to the broader area of machine learning (ML) methods and can be applied to many water management problems. In hydrological modeling, ML tools can process diverse data sets, including satellite imagery, meteorological data, and historical records, to enhance predictions of streamflow, groundwater levels, and water availability and thus support water allocation, infrastructure planning, and operational decision-making. In water demand management, ML models can analyze historical water consumption patterns, weather data, and socioeconomic factors to predict future water demands. These models can support water utilities and policymakers in optimizing water allocation, planning infrastructure, and implementing effective conservation strategies. In reservoir management, advanced ML tools may be used to determine the operating rule of water structures by directly searching for the management policy or by mimicking a set of decisions with some desired properties. They may also be used to develop surrogate models that can be rapidly executed to determine the optimal course of action as a component of a decision-support system. ML methods have revolutionized water management studies by showing the power of data-driven insights. Thanks to their ability to make accurate forecasts, enhanced monitoring, and optimized resource allocation, adopting these tools is predicted to expand and consistently modify water management practices. Continued advancements in ML tools, data availability, and interdisciplinary collaborations will further propel the use of ML methods to address global water challenges and pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable water future.