National Water Rates Study
This summer, the Columbia Water Center has a number of interns working to put together a comprehensive database on water rates in the US and demographic and physiographic factors that may relate to them under the guidance of Professor Upmanu Lall. The idea is to have a publicly available and updated archive that supports analyses of what is driving rates and how it may relate to past (e.g., a protracted drought, or groundwater depletion or regulatory action or demand growth) or future scarcity (or treatment needs or ecological services) in the region.
The initial phase of this project is to build a comprehensive database of utilities from national and regional sources with the goal of including variables such as rates, average customer consumption, physical factors, treatment, climate, demographics of the service population, source type etc. Initial analysis will summarize key characteristics such as utility size, regional climate, service population demographics, and rate structures. A variety of statistical methods will be applied to identify less obvious trends. This will enable grouping of the utilities into economic and demographic categories that will drive financial and economic frameworks contributing to the decision-making of water infrastructure and water-reliant industries. This will be followed with in-depth case studies on subsets of the national data, such as geographical regions and major urban areas. For instance, a detailed analysis can be developed for regions such as California or Florida, with rich histories of water management and sufficient historical data.
While one part of the project is the engagement in the development of water usage database, a parallel research analysis will be conducted to develop Climate Impact Assessment that can quantify the water risk at various spatial and temporal scales. The methodology will be developed at a fine-scale (county level) to provide quantitative estimates of the potential water storage required to meet the demands by considering both the average supply and the natural variability in the supply. This estimate provides a very robust index of the magnitude of water deficit/stress that not only assesses the relative average supply and demand, but also accounts for the temporal imbalance of supply and demand at the spatial resolution consistent with decision making. We expect such novel indices to be much more useful for management than the generic indices available today.
Another part of the project is to develop the ‘Environmental Services’ component in order to provide a data-driven resource that fosters sustainable and economically viable decisions. The goal is to increase global awareness on water challenges and the need for bigger, more thoughtful solutions by examining an ecosystem approach to managing water demand, and developing a link between addressing degradation of ecosystems and economic efficiency through research and case studies.
Dr. Upmanu Lall
Dr. Naresh Devineni
Dr. Shama Perveen