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Water Use During a Highly-Publicized Drought: What Matters for Conservation?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  Noon–1 p.m.

Location: CHASS Interdisciplinary Bldg South 4107
  Parking Information

Category: Seminar


Water of various types and qualities has been increasingly affecting humans and the environment. Many of the individual and social responses to water scarcity or degraded quality are associated with policies. The purpose of this seminar series is to present works that have been conducted by academics and practitioners, using a multitude of disciplines and approaches. The Water Seminar Series will meet once a month for one hour to present and discuss work by academics and practitioners.

Kim Quesnel is a fifth-year PhD candidate at Stanford University in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department where she is co-advised by Dr. Newsha Ajami and Dr. Richard Luthy through the NSF Engineering Research Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) and Stanford’s Water in the West program. Kim’s research investigates urban water demand as a key component of advancing future water supply planning. Additionally, motivated by the water sector’s chronic fiscal challenges, Kim is researching novel approaches to water financing and governance that can promote innovation in the water sector. Prior to coming to Stanford, Kim worked as a civil engineer in Denver, Colorado. She has also worked on a wide range of water-related research projects including the laboratory investigation of tsunami wave breaking behaviors, the assessment and design of water filtration in rural Thailand, and the study of glacier hydrology through field research in Alaska. Kim received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology from Stanford University. She was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency STAR fellowship for her research on urban water demand forecasting.

Public awareness of water- and drought-related issues is an important yet relatively unexplored component of water use behavior. To examine this relationship, we first quantified news media coverage of drought in California from 2005 to 2015, a period with two distinct droughts; the later drought received unprecedentedly high media coverage while the earlier drought did not as the U.S. was experiencing an economic downturn coinciding with a historic presidential election. Comparing this coverage to Google search frequency confirmed that public attention followed news media trends. We then modeled single-family residential water consumption in 20 service areas in the San Francisco Bay Area during the same period using geospatially explicit data and including news media coverage as a covariate. Model outputs revealed the factors affecting water use for populations of varying demographics. Importantly, the models estimated that an increase of 100 drought-related articles in a bimonthly period was associated with an 11% to 18% reduction in water use. Then, we evaluated high-resolution water consumption data from smart meters, known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), in one of the previously modeled service areas to evaluate breakpoints in water use trends. Results demonstrated that while non-residential commercial irrigation customers responded to changes in climate, single-family residential customers decreased water use at the fastest rate following heavy drought-related news media coverage. These results highlight that water resource planners and decision makers should further consider the importance of effective, internally- and externally-driven, public awareness and education in water demand behavior and management.

RSVP to Professor Ariel Dinar via

Open to: General Public
Admission: Free
Sponsor: School of Public Policy

Contact Information:
School of Public Policy
(951) 827-5656