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Evaluating Affordability & Access in Urban Water Supply Planning

In 2012 California enacted legislation upholding a human right to water, becoming the first state to recognize the right of all citizens to clean, affordable drinking water. Scientists, researchers and state agencies are currently working to develop metrics quantifying what constitutes affordable, clean and accessible drinking water, identify places where the human right to water is being violated and address deficiencies in water quality and affordability. 

This project is analyzing how household water affordability, access and equity is affected by drought mitigation measures such as water use restrictions, rate increases or infrastructure investments. For example, use restrictions may burden low-income water users already limited to minimum domestic uses in the interest of cost, and have less capacity to conserve. Similarly, investments in alternative water supplies can ultimately raise rates for consumers, and may therefore decrease the percentage of households with affordable access. 

The team is developing computational systems models that assess the effectiveness of alternative water management strategies in achieving planning goals in the future. These decision-support tools incorporate uncertainty in future hydrological and social conditions to help water planners make investment and management decisions that are robust to a wide range of futures. They evaluate water management strategies including demand management, operational changes, and infrastructure development in meeting performance objectives like cost and reliability. 

Using equity-based performance metrics with decision-support models the approach will help identify solutions that enable affordability and reliability at both the utility and household level. Through the development of models, the research objectives are to:

1.     Quantify the capacity of individual water systems to maintain reliable water supply during droughts whileenabling household affordability and access.

2.     Identify and develop engineering, management, and policy solutions for water providers which bothimprove future drought resilience and the human right to water.

3.     Understand how drought decision making impacts the household affordability and access acrossracial and socioeconomic groups to quantify the distributional equity of drought resilience measures.


WHD Project Leads