Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Christine DeMyers, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Cities across the U.S. are facing the challenge of achieving water efficiency goals while maintaining the water utility revenues required for public services. To address this emerging area of sustainability planning, Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) hosts annual Science Policy workshops that unites a selection of experts to have a series of roundtable discussions on urban water demand. With 4 years of archived video and audio data of the presentations that occurred during these two-day workshops, our objective was to analyze the expressed challenges and solutions to urban water demand, inside and outside of the Colorado River Basin (CRB). This data was first refined through a targeted transcription of key passages that were relevant to our codebook, which was informed both deductively (from the literature) and inductively (from participant observation). The substantive codes in our codebook were structured according to framing theory, we particularly utilize diagnostic (challenges to urban water demand) and prognostic (solutions) frames. Our structural codes helped us identify the differences in framing inside and outside of the CRB, as well as a selection of transformational water systems. We utilized the MAXQDA software for our content analysis. We find that the majority of the cities in our study are striving toward the maximization of water efficiency in the residential sector with relative ease. The challenge has been finding the appropriate pricing structures that can account for peak water usage and seasonal fluctuations--that will simultaneously not deter residents nor disproportionately affect residents with the lowest incomes. The water (mis)usage within the Commercial, Institutional, and Industrial (CII) sector is a previously ignored and emerging area of research and intervention. Overall, the most commonly expressed challenges to sustainable urban water demand were: outdated and inadequate pricing structures, the lack of data sharing, the inaccuracies and uncertainties of water demand forecasts, and the lack of transparency between service providers, land use planners, and end users. The most common solutions were: targeting irrigation behaviors across all sectors, targeting the CII sector for inefficiencies and pricing changes, incentivizing water efficient retrofits and behaviors, and research on end-user behaviors that can help illuminate the most efficient use of incentives and price changes. We identify two major gaps in the conversations: the topic of water quality and the consideration of the water demand of ecosystems and riparian areas. These two facets are crucial to the achievement of overall water security. Finally, many of the transformational solutions to urban water demand were found within the most water stressed cities within the Colorado River Basin, and involve a connection between water conservation stakeholders and land use planners at the front end of planning new communities.