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Water Systems Analysis and Policy Research Group


We study the impacts of design and policy choices on the performance of water infrastructure systems under changing conditions.  To do this we apply systems analysis methods to understand feedbacks in coupled human-hydrological systems, assess the role of design choices, and inform decision making.

We collaborate with research groups at ASU and beyond to apply interdisciplinary approaches to address pressing water resources and infrastructure challenges. We are part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and the Global Futures Lab at ASU. Our students are part of graduate programs in Sustainable Engineering and Hydrosystems Engineering and undergraduate programs in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Latest News

January 21, 2022

2022 is off to a good start for our team. Ashish published his first dissertation chapter, on the impacts of infrastructure data gaps on urban flood model performance, in Journal of Hydrology, and received an offer for a Postdoc position. Both successes are the result of years of hard work and we are all very proud of Ashish! Additionally, Behshad and I, along with our collaborators, published a paper in Water Security looking at the interaction of cognitive biases and hydrological extremes. This paper synthesizes the big ideas behind our Adaptive Reservoir Management project and presents some initial modeling results. We are excited to share it with the world and get additional feedback on our ideas. Lastly, I published a paper with Francisco and other collaborators on the integration of urban planning and hydrological modeling for green infrastructure siting, which shares results from our recently completed project on the U.S.-Mexico border.

December 20, 2021

This fall was the first in person semester of graduate school for several members of our team. We enjoyed the chance to get to know each other better and share our work with the broader community. Ashish, Adam, Behshad, Burcu, Krista, and Sara all presented at the Arizona Hydrological Society symposium in September in Tempe, AZ. All did an excellent job and Ashish won second place in the student presentation competition. Congrats Ashish! At the end of the semester, Ashish, Adam, Behshad, Burcu, and Sara presented at the AGU fall meeting, with Karissa also contributing to one of the presentations. The organizers did a great job at the hard task of organizing a hybrid meeting and we all learned a lot! Lastly, Karissa graduated with her B.S. in Environmental Engineering – congrats Karissa! We are happy that she will be sticking around for her M.S. through the 4+1 program.

August 24, 2021

The Fall semester just began and its the first time since March 2020 with the whole research team based on campus. We're excited to have this chance to get to know each other better and to more easily collaborate. We have some project and publication updates. On the Flood Aware project Annika's MS thesis paper, co-authored with Ashish, was accepted in the Hydrological Sciences Journal and the team paper, led be Alysha Helmrich in Prof. Chester's group, on opportunities for crowd sourcing in urban flood monitoring was accepted in the Environmental Modeling and Software Journal. Congrats to Annika and Alysha! On our Urban Water Project, Co-PI Aaron Deslatte led a paper published last month in the Policy Studies Journal on the team's mixed method approach to case selection. Thanks to Aaron for leading this effort! Additionally, all students in the group are currently preparing presentations for the Arizona Hydrological Symposium coming up in mid-September. We're looking forward to sharing our results with Arizona water researchers and practicioners!

May 26, 2021

In the spring semester our research group along with the rest of ASU continued in hybrid mode doing most of our research work virtually. Early this semester Ashish presented and passed his proposal defense making him the first PhD Candidate in our young research group. Great work Ashish! Also on the urban flooding project Annika submitted an article on her MS work to the Hydrological Sciences Journal and Ashish will soon submit his first paper on the impacts of infrastructure data completeness and model resolution on urban flood model performance. Behshad, Sara and Adam all submitted proposals for summer research funding to the ASU Earth Systems Science for the Anthropocene grad student network and all were succesful! Behshad will be expanding on our work in the Russian River basin to work with the Russian Riverkeeper NGO to study the process of water management and conservation under drought in real time. Sara and Adam will be working with the Kyl Water Policy Center to analyze information flows related to water management and water variabiltiy in metro Phoenix. Congrats to all three! Last but not least, Karissa Gund joins our group this summer as an undergraduate research assistant and will be working with Sara and I on an analysis of streamflow variability and change for the Urban Water Transistions project. Welcome Karissa!

December 18, 2020

Our research team had a full fall semester. In August, Sara and Burcu officially began their PhD journeys. Both had to start remotely given the Covid-19 conditions but did a great job jumping into their new roles under tough conditions. We also had two PhD students from other programs at ASU join our research team as affiliates. Adam Wiechman joined the SOS PhD program and is working on the Urban Water Transistions project. Marty Anderies is his primary advisor but he will closely collaborate with Sara and I. Krista Lawless joined the Environmental Social Science PhD with Dave White as her advisor, and joined our Western Water Project. She will work closely with Burcu and I, and contribute to the institutional analysis. In December our team attended the AGU Fall Meeting (virutally) and Behshad, Ashish and Sara all presented their work. Coming up in January Annika (MS alumni) will present her masters work at the AMS meeting. Great work by all the presenters!

July 16, 2020

Our team, like most, has had a hectic spring and early summer as we've adapted our teaching, research, and personal lives to the COVID19 pandemic. However, we have had some good news to report. In March, Dr. Garcia was awarded an NSF CAREER grant to study tradeoffs between local and systemic risks in networked water supply systems. The project will focus on the Western Water Network as a case study. This is award is quite the honor and we're excited to get going in August. Burcu Tezcan has accepted an offer to work on this project and will join the team in August. We can't wait to start working together! In May, Annika successfully defended her masters thesis, co-advised with Prof. Mascaro, on rainfall-radar error and its propagation in urban flood modeling. Congrats to Annika! She is headed to UC Irvine to start her PhD in August. We'll miss her and will be excited to hear about her work there. Additionally, Behshad was accepted into a workshop on Spatial Agent Based Modeling at SESYNC. Congrats Behshad! He is attending (virtually) this week and we're excited to hear his lessons learned. 

January 30, 2020

Our team traveled to San Francisco in December to present at the AGU Fall Meeting. Ashish presented a poster on his urban flood modeling work with the Flood Aware project. Ashish also contributed to an oral presentation with on Cooperation in Reservoir Operation on the Colombia River with his team from the Summer Research Institute in Kunming last summer. The team is now working on refining their analysis for publication. Additionally, Ahish presented the Flood Aware work at CAP LTER All Scientists meeting in January and the SSEBE graduate research symposium in January. Great work Ashish! The team also hosted prospective students at the Graduate Research Symposium. Sara Alonso Vicario who attended accepted an offer to join the Urban Water Transitions project and will join our team in August. We look forward to her arrival!

November 8, 2019

Our team has had a busy fall getting our two new projects off the ground and finishing deployment of our sensor system for the Flood Aware project (https://asunow.asu.edu/20190730-solutions-flood). Additionally, last week we hosted the International Association of Hydrological Science workshop on Drought in the Anthropocene here at ASU. We teamed up with Amir Aghakouchak and his research group at UC Irvine, Manuela Brunner of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Shraddhanand Shukla of the Climate Hazards Center at UCSB, Elliot Wickham from the National Drought Mitigation Center, and Noemi Vergopolan of Princeton to organize the workshop. We'll be sharing a workshop summary and reporting on the new research ideas in the coming weeks. Prof. Anne Van Loon, who leads the Drought in the Anthropocene working group, is staying at ASU for a few weeks to collaborate with our group and meet with other at ASU. We're excited to have her here and learn from her expertise!

August 12, 2019

We have a few pieces of news to report as the summer wraps up. First, we recently had a new paper accepted in Global Environmental Change comparing water managmenet transitions in three U.S. cities. The paper presents work funded by a graduate pursuit grant from SESYNC. Second, we received funding from the NSF to extend the work from the paper to a dozen cities with two members from the SESYNC team and two new Co-PI's. We'll be hiring PhD students at ASU in Civil Engineering and the School of Sustainability, so send a note using the contact page if you're interested. The project is funded by the NSF program on Coupled Human-Natural Systems (award 1923880) and more info can be found here: https://web.asu.edu/mgarcia/research

July 19, 2019

Our team has had a busy summer so far. First, in May we welcomed Behshad Mohajer as the newest PhD student in the group. Behshad has his MSc. degree in Water Resources Engineering and Management and BSc. degree in Civil Engineering from Tehran Azad University. Prior to ASU he worked for UNICEF in their WASH division. Second, Annika presented her honors thesis at the ASCE EWRI meeting and won third place in the student poster competition – congrats Annika! Next, in June PhD student Ashish headed to Yunnan University to participate in a Summer Research Institute on Transboundary Water Management. He’s working with a team of students from around the world analyzing case studies to identify drivers of cooperation and conflict in transboundary water. Prof. Garcia joined the students in Yunnan for two weeks as a faculty adviser. Many thanks to Prof. Fuqiang Tian of Tsinghua University for organizing and inviting us. Last, but not least, we are excited to report our first NSF grant as lead. The project on Cross-Scale Interactions & the Design of Adaptive Reservoir Operations is in collaboration with colleagues at Purdue and University of Illinois will being in August. More info can be found here: https://web.asu.edu/mgarcia/research

May 13, 2019

A new paper on adaptive infrastructure was recently published in collaboration with ASU colleagues Mike Chester and Brad Allenby. Erica Gilrein, masters student in Chester's group, led the project which developed a database of existing technologies and strategies that can increase infrastructure flexibility.

We also congratulate Dillon Nys on finishing his MS in Environmental Engineering. Durnig his masters Dillon worked with Margaret Garcia on a research paper examining institutional and infrastructural influences on water stress in Los Angeles and completed an applied project. For his applied project Dillon developed a mathematical model, BioSim, of a fully-enclosed human habitat where all resources (air, water, food) are recycled and regenerated. BioSim models the flows and fluxes of these resources throughout the system as they change over time using a system of physical equations and discrete time steps. The equations used for modeling are presented alongside results and the MATLAB code for more in-depth analysis of the individual components. More info can be found on his github site: https://github.com/dnys1/biosim Great job Dillon and best of luck in your new job!

We also congratulate Kiran Pendyla on finishing his BS and successfully completing his honors thesis. Kiran conducted an exploratory analysis on water use trends using household level water use data from the City of Santa Monica, CA. He developed a series of scripts to organize, clean and visualize the data and completed a cluster analysis identifying groups of water users with similar time series behavior. Nice work Kiran and best of luck in your new job!

March 11, 2019

Three papers from the group have been recently accepted for publication. One of papers, accepted to the Urban Water Journal, describes an analysis of water use data from the city of Las Vegas and the development of a model to assess the impact of external and emergent factors on per capita water use. The second paper, accepted at the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, evaluates the effectiveness of the SESYNC graduate pursuit program in building interdisciplinary and team science skills in PhD students. The third paper is an introduction to the special issue on Socio-Hydrology in Water Resources Research discussing the state of the field, contributions of the special issue, and areas for growth. See publications page for more details. Additionally, Annika's thesis work has been accepted as a poster and conference paper at the 2019 ASCE Environmental and Water Resrouces Institute conference. 

November 2, 2018

Annika, Civil Engineering undergraduate student in the Barret Honors program, successfully defended her thesis on the Effect of Drought Policies on Los Angeles Water Demand. In her work she created a comprehensive data base of local, county and state conservation policies and assessed their role, in conjunction with hydroclimatic and socio-economic variability, in explaining the observed decline in per capita water use. Annika’s thesis work was supported by the ASU Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI).

October 1, 2018

We kicked off a new multi-university project to assess the effectiveness of several real-time flood detection, reporting, and communication technologies for cities and local communities. The project is supported by the National Science Foundation's Smart and Connected Communities program (award 1831475). We will be working in collaboration with Giuseppe Mascaro and Mikhail Chester at ASU and colleagues at NAU, University of Arizona, Michigan Tech, and University of Buffalo. In our group we will be developing urban hydrological models for Phoenix and Flagstaff to pilot the integration of a novel combination data sources (flood cameras, citizen science reports, traffic cameras, and social media) with traditional data and forecasts to provide real time flood alerts. We’ll be providing periodic updates on our project website: http://floodaware.net/

August 15, 2018

We welcomed two new graduate students into the research group for the Fall 2018 semester. Ashish Shrestha join the group as a new graduate student pursuing his PhD. Student in Sustainable Engineering. Ashish will work on the integration of new information sources to predict and mitigate urban flooding. Dillon Nys, masters student in Environmental Engineering, is assisting with Prof. Garcia with ongoing work on urban water stress and reservoir operations and will be completing his applied project in the Spring of 2019.