Urban water sustainability: an integrative framework for regional water management
P. Gonzales1,2 and N. K. Ajami2,31Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA 2ReNUWIt Engineering Research Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA 3Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA
Received: 14 Oct 2015 – Accepted for review: 21 Oct 2015 – Discussion started: 03 Nov 2015
Abstract. Traditional urban water supply portfolios have proven to be unsustainable under the uncertainties associated with growth and long-term climate variability. Introducing alternative water supplies such as recycled water, captured runoff, desalination, as well as demand management strategies such as conservation and efficiency measures, has been widely proposed to address the long-term sustainability of urban water resources. Collaborative efforts have the potential to achieve this goal through more efficient use of common pool resources and access to funding opportunities for supply diversification projects. However, this requires a paradigm shift towards holistic solutions that address the complexity of hydrologic, socio-economic and governance dynamics surrounding water management issues. The objective of this work is to develop a regional integrative framework for the assessment of water resource sustainability under current management practices, as well as to identify opportunities for sustainability improvement in coupled socio-hydrologic systems. We define the sustainability of a water utility as the ability to access reliable supplies to consistently satisfy current needs, make responsible use of supplies, and have the capacity to adapt to future scenarios. To compute a quantitative measure of sustainability, we develop a numerical index comprised of supply, demand, and adaptive capacity indicators, including an innovative way to account for the importance of having diverse supply sources. We demonstrate the application of this framework to the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Our analyses demonstrate that water agencies that share common water supplies are in a good position to establish integrative regional management partnerships in order to achieve individual and collective short-term and long-term benefits.
Gonzales, P. and Ajami, N. K.: Urban water sustainability: an integrative framework for regional water management, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 12, 11291-11329, doi:10.5194/hessd-12-11291-2015, 2015.