Welcome to the 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 Institute of Sustainability at ASU. Our students are part of graduate programs in Sustainable Engineering and Hydrosystems Engineering and undergraduate programs in Civil and Environmental Engineering.


Transition Dynamics in Integrated Urban Water Systems

Our group is collaborating with an all-star team of Marty Anderies at ASU, Aaron Deslatte at University of Indiana, Elizabeth Koebele at UNR, and George Hornberger at Vanderbilt to study Transition Dynamics in Integrated Urban Water Systems. The project is funded by the NSF program on Coupled Human-Natural Systems (award 1923880) and builds off pilot work funded by SESYNC. Urban water-supply systems consist of both physical infrastructure and policies that govern their use. These systems are designed to be adaptable to a wide range of supply and demand conditions. However, climatic and social shifts are placing new stresses on water-supply systems that require substantial changes, also called transitions, to maintain system performance. This research analyzes transitions across 12 large-scale urban water systems in the United States to achieve two goals: 1) to better document the interactions among various environmental and human factors that may prompt transition, and 2) to identify which infrastructure and policy design choices can foster practical transitions to increase sustainability. Knowledge relating design to outcomes is key because, while cities cannot control the dynamics of hydrological or human systems, they can alter design choices. Further, understanding proactive urban water transitions can offer general insights for other societal challenges where proactive transition is essential.

Cross-Scale Interactions & the Design of Adaptive Reservoir Operations

Our group is teaming up with David Yu at Purdue and Murugesu Sivapalan at University of Illinois in an NSF funded project (award 1913920) to improve the understanding and practice of adaptive reservoir operations. Reservoirs play a significant role in reducing risk of human impacts of floods and droughts by buffering streamflow variability. Forecast informed reservoir operations promise to maintain performance as conditions change by employing adaptive operations to further control streamflow variability. However, research shows that tight control of short-term variability in self-organizing systems can lead to cascading of fragilities in the long-run by suppressing information needed for adaptive capacity. Multi-purpose reservoirs are embedded in watershed systems that are self-organizing but also heavily engineered. Thus, it is unclear if changes to reservoir operations cascade through the hydrologic and socio-economic subsystems to generate unintended fragilities, particularly under changing climatic conditions. This raises three key questions: 1) How will a change in reservoir operations propagate through the partially-engineered, partially-evolving watershed system? 2) What characteristics of the hydrological or governance system affect this propagation? 3) What institutional design choices enable adaptive management? This research will address these questions through detailed studies of two cases in distinct hydro-climatic and governance regimes paired with stylized modeling to generalize findings beyond the two test cases.

Flood Aware: Community-Based Automated Information for Urban Flooding

Flood Aware is a 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). Our group 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/