A provider-based water planning and management model - WaterSim 4.0 - For the Phoenix Metropolitan Area

D. A. Sampson, V. Escobar, M. K. Tschudi, T. Lant, Patricia Gober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Uncertainty in future water supplies for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area (Phoenix) are exacerbated by the near certainty of increased, future water demands; water demand may increase eightfold or more by 2030 for some communities. We developed a provider-based water management and planning model for Phoenix termed WaterSim 4.0. The model combines a FORTRAN library with Microsoft C# to simulate the spatial and temporal dynamics of current and projected future water supply and demand as influenced by population demographics, climatic uncertainty, and groundwater availability. This paper describes model development and rationale. Water providers receive surface water, groundwater, or both depending on their portfolio. Runoff from two riverine systems supplies surface water to Phoenix while three alluvial layers that underlie the area provide groundwater. Water demand was estimated using two approaches. One approach used residential density, population projections, water duties, and acreage. A second approach used per capita water consumption and separate population growth estimates. Simulated estimates of initial groundwater for each provider were obtained as outputs from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Salt River Valley groundwater flow model (GFM). We compared simulated estimates of water storage with empirical estimates for modeled reservoirs as a test of model performance. In simulations we modified runoff by 80%-110% of the historical estimates, in 5% intervals, to examine provider-specific responses to altered surface water availability for 33 large water providers over a 25-year period (2010-2035). Two metrics were used to differentiate their response: (1) we examined groundwater reliance (GWR; that proportion of a providers' portfolio dependent upon groundwater) from the runoff sensitivity analysis, and (2) we used 100% of the historical runoff simulations to examine the cumulative groundwater withdrawals for each provider. Four groups of water providers were identified, and discussed. Water portfolios most reliant on Colorado River water may be most sensitive to potential reductions in surface water supplies. Groundwater depletions were greatest for communities who were either 100% dependent upon groundwater (urban periphery), or nearly so, coupled with high water demand projections. On-going model development includes linking WaterSim 4.0 to the GFM in order to more precisely model provider-specific estimates of groundwater, and provider-based policy options that will enable "what-if" scenarios to examine policy trade-offs and long-term sustainability of water portfolios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2596-2610
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Modeling
  • Municipal water provider
  • Population growth
  • Scenario
  • Water planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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