Transferability and scalability of sustainable urban water solutions–A case study from the Colorado River Basin

Nigel Forrest, Zoë Stein, Arnim Wiek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Conventional water management systems seem increasingly unable to resolve the challenges of over-allocation, climate change, and urban growth facing cities such as those in the Colorado River Basin. Transformational urban water solutions matching the scale and urgency of the challenges are needed. An experimental water-independent house in Tucson, Arizona demonstrates the feasibility of this solution in a limited setting. Through qualitative research with local stakeholders, we assessed the potential for this solution to be transferred to and scaled in Phoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas. Results show the potential is low for all three cities but for differing physical, cultural, financial, institutional, and other reasons, and that significant systemic effects could undermine the solution if implemented at scale. Yet, insights from our analysis allowed us to recommend various adaptations, most notably dropping full water independence. The adapted solution has significantly improved potential for Phoenix, including reduced systemic risk, somewhat improved for Denver, but still very low for Las Vegas. Overall, the research suggests direction for further experimentation. Apart from its practical relevance, this research also offers insights into the emerging field of solution transferability and scalability studies in sustainability science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104790
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Sustainability experiment
  • Sustainable urban water systems
  • Transfer and Scaling
  • Transformational sustainable water solutions
  • Water-independence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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