Description

Project Summary for Systemic Water and Electricity Vulnerabilities in the Desert, or, Vulnerability of Desert Cities and Agriculture to Systemic Risk from Extreme Events to Water and Electricity Supplies. Overview: Western US regions are expected to experience more heat days, water shortages, intense precipitation events, forest fires, and increased peak power demands in the future. Desert cities are particularly vulnerable to future changes in the climate and in water resource and electrical energy cost, reliability, and availability. In response, for example, many city managers have introduced xeriscaping and wastewater recycling programs, expanded water infrastructure, installed stormwater retention structures and implemented rebuilding programs that mitigate the urban heat island effect, to boost the efficiency of their individual cities water supply systems. Western canal projects, irrigation districts, and farmers have likewise boosted efficiency of water delivery and application and adjusted planting practices. However, the regional water and energy supply systems are a complex arrangement of many socio-political, economic, environmental, and physical subsystems in which each subsystem is both directly and indirectly exposed to the other subsystems. This is a system of systems. Each manager controls only one subsystem, but that subsystem is exposed to the vulnerabilities of the whole system through its network of direct and indirect connections. The measures currently being implemented are effective at the subsystem scale, but may be ineffective or actually counterproductive at the system scale. The greatest risks now exist at the system scale. While research has studied the interdependencies between water and electricity infrastructure, little is known about how the vulnerability in one system may propagate to the other, and especially about how the operational governance structures of these systems should be adapted for a climate-constrained future. As such, there is a need to better understand how the governing of water and electricity services from the regional to the local level can be coordinated to proactively reduce future climate vulnerability. This project will develop, (1) network-theory based complex system methods for assessing systemic vulnerability to municipal and agricultural users of water and electricity, (2) an institutional governance and decision making analysis that includes regional and local agents, and (3) a transition management strategy with pathways for reduced systemic vulnerability. As a focused case study, the project will develop fine-scale network mapping for the vulnerabilities embedded in the water and electricity infrastructure that connects Southern Arizona cities and farms to the broader system comprising the institutions of the Colorado River Basin and Western Power Grid, and will involve both local and regional institutions in system-level research. Intellectual Merit: To date, vulnerability research has largely been focused on identifying the magnitude of these infrastructure interdependencies. For example, the investigators and others have studied how much electricity is allocated to the distribution of water, and how much water is allocated to the production of electricity, at a State scale in the Western US. These analyses are insufficient for planners and operational managers and regional planners because they fail to elucidate the cascading, non-linear amplification of risk from subcomponent to system scales, or the role of decision making and governance in creating and mitigating vulnerability. Nor do they typically involve subsystem institutions and managers to determine how system level practices can be cooperatively improved to reduce vulnerability. Broader Impacts: The proposed research will directly engage the institutional community of electrical and water system engineers, planners, and managers from local to regional scales. Any fundamental scientific advances will therefore have a direct pathway to application, because they will be formed on the basis of institutional input and thinking. The findings of the research will be disseminated through existing institutional networks and venues, ensuring that the broader community is exposed to helpful results. A new generation of students and researchers will be trained and gain experience in the proposed theories and models, and will subsequently help to implement the ideas in future practice.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date7/1/146/30/18

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $719,934.00

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vulnerability
infrastructure
climate change
electricity
energy
water
desert
water supply
climate
decision making
electricity supply
heat island
environmental economics
extreme event
forest fire
stormwater
canal
amplification
recycling
student