|Abstract:||Urban environments sit at an intersection of technology, resource consumption, population, culture, and economics. With an increasingly urbanized population across the globe comes an increased demand for resources including water, food, and energy. The study of resource consumption in cities and urban environments, therefore, offers potential for conservation and efficiency increases. Water resources are integral to the necessary functioning of the city and its future sustainability. Not only are water resources directly procured and utilized within the city, water is also consumed in the production of other resources, including food and energy. However, these direct and indirect water resources of cities are understudied, with data that are scattered and inaccessible, if they exist at all.
This dissertation utilized the principles of the food-energy-water nexus, urban water, material flow analysis/urban metabolism, and urban water governance to discuss the magnitude and importance of water resources in the urban environment. Open data and data availability played an integral role throughout the analysis. First, the availability of direct water volume (drinking water and wastewater) and its embedded energy data were discussed. The lack of existing data prompted the use of open records requests to build a database of urban water and energy data for cities across the United States. The collected data were then evaluated to quantify the state of the urban energy-water nexus. Additionally, the information from this database was compared to other material flows and their water footprints to characterize the extent of direct and indirect water resources in cities. Following the quantification of water resources and their impact in cities from a civil engineering framework, statistical modeling was completed to identify indicators of urban water use considering socioeconomic and environmental factors. Finally, through these studies, the underlying theme of open data in water resources was discussed in its relationship to governance regimes. The role of open data in sustainable urban water governance revealed a path forward for policy and future data publication to promote sustainable water systems and the concept of the blue city.
In summary, this dissertation both quantifies the magnitude of water resources in cities throughout the United States and promotes the need for further open data. The resultant databases of water and wastewater utilities represents a service population of over 80 million people. The annual embedded energy within national water and wastewater resources was estimated to be 1% of total electricity produced in the United States. Additionally, non-revenue water, estimated at 16% of total treated drinking water, contributed to a significant amount of both water and energy loss. Data for indirect water resources were even more scarce and require a shift in urban water governance to create opportunities for greater data collection and synthesis. The overall results promote greater understanding of the urban water cycle through data collection of direct and indirect water resources, inclusion of embedded energy at the urban scale, and the need for a social sciences perspective when studying the drivers and governance structures of urban water resources.