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Objectives + Specific Aims

Following the conceptual models of net zero energy and carbon systems, the overall purpose is to define and examine the viability and value of pursuing a NZUW approach in arid and semi-arid urban scenarios of varying size and location serviced by the Colorado River (e.g., Los Angeles, Denver, Albuquerque, Tucson).  NZUW is a place-based, comprehensive, quantitative framework to guide the development of resilient and sustainable water systems that are capable of responding to acute shocks and chronic stressors and integrate dynamic socio-environmental systems into the analysis. NZUW is a framework that pushes the current conceptual boundaries of urban water systems by accounting for the integrated socio-environmental systems necessary to transition to a resilient, sustainable water future.


This Research Coordination Network (RCN) has three objectives:  

  1. The creation of an overall research road map to address the challenges of shifting cities toward sustainable, resilient urban water systems. Research gaps will be identified across seven research areas through a series of workshops, literature reviews, stakeholder interviews, focus group discussions, and pre and post workshop surveys.  Participation will be engaged from inside and outside of the traditional academy, including collaborators from industry, the nonprofit sector, municipal and utility groups, and policy think-tanks.  

  2. The initiation, coordination, and dissemination of NZUW related research through a newsletter, website, and social media.

  3. Assessment across multiple time scales.

Seven prominent research areas have been identified across socio-environmental systems in our novel NZUW framework:

  1. Alternative water sources and retrofit

  2. Distributed soft infrastructure

  3. Surface and groundwater interactions

  4. Treatment and management technologies

  5. Public preference

  6. Policy and governance

  7. Equity and justice across urban water

Short term impacts include:

  1. Dissemination of multidisciplinary knowledge on the current challenges to urban water systems in the southwest

  2. Identification of socio-environmental research gaps toward a comprehensive NZUW model

  3. Training of a postdoctoral fellow

  4. Initiation of collaborative research partnerships and proposals to address these gaps

  5. Creation of an integrated and dynamic NZUW framework. Participation by all interested parties will be actively promoted through the website, newsletter, and social media


Long term impacts include:

  1. A novel NZUW conceptual framework to coordinate long term multidisciplinary research

  2. The delivery of decision support through comprehensive models to quantitatively evaluate dynamic trade-offs in NZUW systems across spatial and temporal time scales

  3. The training of students through the seeded research projects that grow out of this RCN

  4. The long term partnerships formed between academic, public, and private sectors involved in this RCN toward the reinvention and adaptation of urban water systems serviced by the Colorado River

Over 40 million people currently rely on an over-allocated Colorado River for their water supply. Climate change, drought, urban development, and population growth are making shortages worse. Our NZUW research network will improve the sustainability, resilience, and adaptation of these urban water systems, thus directly impacting these 40 million people.

Steering Committee


Courtney Crosson (PI)

University of Arizona, Associate Professor, School of Architecture; Director, Drachman Institute


Neha Gupta (Co-PI)

University of Arizona, Assistant Research Professor, Arizona Institute for Resilience (AIR)


Stephanie Pincetl

University of California Los Angeles, Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering; Director, California Center for Sustainable Communities


Tzahi Cath (Co-PI)

Colorado School of Mines, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Advanced Water Technology Center


Caroline Scruggs

University of New Mexico, Associate Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Planning


Rashi Bhushan

University of Arizona, Post Doctoral Research Associate

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