Creating risk tolerant and equitable water management systems requires understanding how people value and use water, in a ground-up, user-centered approach. In addition, we need top-down global and regional policies that are able to incorporate such information to reflect the reality on-the-ground. Hence, my research is focused on understanding water users, but framed for water managers and policy makers as my primary audience; I create knowledge and policy tools that increase the capacity of water and wastewater utility managers, but I also seek to understand water managers, themselves, and the institutions that they run. To this end, I have engaged in large-scale quantitative household surveys, as well as qualitative key informant interviews, focused on water users and water managers respectively. I have estimated differential impacts across socio-economic groups from upgrades to water and sanitation systems in India, Tanzania and Kenya, and developed novel policy tools in India, Morocco and California. In the face of climate change, we need to understand how water users and water managers interact, designing around their preferences and needs. To this end, I have engaged in large-scale quantitative household surveys, as well as qualitative key informant interviews, focused on water users and water managers respectively. I have estimated differential impacts across socio-economic groups from upgrades to water and sanitation systems in India, Tanzania and Kenya, and developed novel policy tools in India, Morocco and California.
My current goal is to improve our understanding of water users and water managers, but my ultimate goal is to create mechanisms, methods and tools that allow both active and passive feedback between water users, managers and policy makers. Right now, urban water and sanitation systems in low and middle income countries are expanding, rapidly, in order to accommodate an enormous influx of new urban residents. When technology and investment choices are made, a ‘technology-path’ is locked in for the immediate future at all scales. Investments made today will cast a long shadow on water management in the future, during a time when climate is shifting and past experience is an imperfect guide. Many high income countries have water and wastewater systems which are deteriorating faster than they are being replaced, or exploiting water resources at an unsustainable rate, with severe impacts on equity and local ecosystem health; it is not clear that these systems will continue to deliver the same benefits into the future. There is a window of opportunity, now, to create improved systems, particularly when it comes to reuse, water use efficiency, resilience, reliability and social equity. Rather than ‘copy-pasting’ the same technologies that have been used in the past, they should be adapted and improved. I strongly believe that placing water users at the center of a larger water-wastewater system is an important first step; this is the point where water becomes waste (or is reused). Interrogating this point, making it more transparent and accessible to water managers and policy makers, is precisely what my research attempts to do.