Dissertation Defense: Patricia Gonzales-- "Coordinating Regional Water Management to Enable Innovation and Prompt Collective Action"

Please join Patricia Gonzales as she presents her dissertation defense "Coordination Regional Water Management to Enable Innovation and Prompt Collective Action" on June 14 at 9 am in Shriram 104.



In response to increasing pressures on our water systems, urban water utilities are progressively adopting water conservation and supply diversification strategies. There is growing recognition that tapping into alternative and decentralized water supplies, such as water recycling and reuse, stormwater capture, desalination, as well as conservation and efficiency can help improve resilience under emerging challenges by decreasing dependence on imported water supplies and already stressed sources. However, even though the technologies are available to support the introduction of these new water supply sources, a number of socio-economic, financial, and political hurdles stand in the way of re-invention in the water sector. Furthermore, despite spatial and institutional inter-dependency of many water utilities, supply diversification efforts have traditionally been tackled by individual utilities operating in isolation, which hinders knowledge transfer and innovation.

The five studies that comprise this dissertation collectively develop novel insights and tools to facilitate the adoption of more collaborative and adaptable water management strategies. Specifically, these studies focus on leveraging the untapped potential for the diversification of water supplies at regional scales through collective action incentives. Using case study regions in the San Francisco Bay Area, we identify emerging water supply- and demand- management trends and challenges in urban areas, provide new insights into changing public behaviors in response to water scarcity, and introduce novel metrics to guide regional resilience efforts. Based on these insights, we also demonstrate the development of incentive-based schemes for water conservation and water supply diversification, taking lessons from other sectors including cap-and-trade for emissions reduction and tradable certificate markets for renewable energy adoption.

Results indicate that coordinating water supply diversification efforts regionally can lead to reduced costs and increased resilience compared to the traditional isolated approach, with greater benefits as utilities engage in collective efforts and cooperate in the exchange of information. This research contributes to the growing literature on urban water resilience by demonstrating that emerging technological and infrastructure solutions need to be accompanied by well-informed and more collaborative institutional arrangements that can leverage the unique characteristics of diverse urban areas.