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Assessing tradeoffs of urban water demand reduction strategies




Neale, Michael R., author
Arabi, Mazdak, advisor
Sharvelle, Sybil, advisor
Goemans, Christopher, committee member

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In many cities across the World, traditional sources of potable water supply can become susceptible to shortage due to increased water demands from rapid urbanization and more frequent and extreme drought conditions. Understanding impacts of city-scale conservation and water reuse is important for water managers to implement cost effective water saving strategies and develop resilient municipal water systems. Innovative water reuse systems are becoming more cost effective, technologically viable and socially accepted. However, there is still a need for comparative assessment of alternative sources; graywater, stormwater and wastewater use along with indoor and outdoor conservation, implemented at the municipal scale. This study applies the Integrated Urban Water Model (IUWM) to three U.S. cities; Denver, CO; Miami, FL; and Tucson, AZ. We assess the tradeoffs between cost and water savings for a range of solutions composed of up to three strategies; to understand interactions between strategies and their performance under the influence of local precipitation, population density and land cover. A global sensitivity analysis method was used to fit and test model parameters to historical water use in each city. Alternative source and conservation strategies available in IUWM were simulated to quantify annual water savings. Alternative source strategies simulate collection of graywater, stormwater and wastewater to supplement demands for toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and potable supply. A non-dominated sorting function was applied that minimizes annual demand and total annualized cost to identify optimal strategies. Results show discrete strategy performance in demand reduction between cities influenced by local climate conditions, land cover and population density. Strategies that include use of stormwater can achieve highest demand reduction in Miami, where precipitation and impervious area is large resulting in larger generation of stormwater compared to other study cities. Indoor conservation was frequently part of optimal solutions in Tucson, where indoor water use is higher per capita compared to other study cities. The top performing strategies overall in terms of water savings and total cost were found to be efficient irrigation systems and stormwater for irrigation. While use of stormwater achieves large demand reduction relative to other strategies, it only occurred in non-dominated solutions that were characterized by higher cost. This strategy can be very effective for demand reduction, but is also costly. On the contrary, efficient irrigation systems are frequently part of low-cost solutions across all three study cities. Overall, this study introduces a framework for assessing cost and efficacy of water conservation and reuse strategies across regions. Results identify optimal strategies that can meet a range of demand reduction targets and stay within financial constraints.


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total cost assessment
water conservation
urban water demand
alternative sources


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