WaterSim: A simulation model for urban water planning in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Patricia Gober, Elizabeth Wentz, Timothy Lant, Michael K. Tschudi, Craig W. Kirkwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


WaterSim, a simulation model, was built and implemented to investigate how alternative climate conditions, rates of population growth, and policy choices interact to affect future water supply and demand conditions in Phoenix, AZ. WaterSim is a hierarchical model that represents supply from surface and groundwater sources and demand from residential, commercial, and agricultural user sectors, incorporating the rules that govern reservoirs, aquifer use, and land-use change. In this paper we: (1) report on the imperative for exploratory modeling in water-resource management, given the deep uncertainties of climate change, (2) describe the geographic context for the Phoenix case study, (3) outline the objectives and structure of WaterSim, (4) report on testing the model with sensitivity analyses and history matching, (5) demonstrate the application of the model through a series of simulation experiments, and (6) discuss the model's use for scenario planning and climate adaptation. Simulation results show there are significant challenges to Phoenix's water sustainability from climate change and rapid growth. Policies to address these challenges require difficult tradeoffs among lifestyles, groundwater sustainability, the pace of growth, and what is considered to be an appropriate level of risk of climate-induced shortage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 23 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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