Carnegie Mellon University
March 22, 2016

Achieving Water Sustainability in Los Angeles Amid Drought

Achieving Water Sustainability in Los Angeles Amid Drought They say that when it rains it pours. But when it doesn’t rain, the four million residents of the city of Los Angeles must find creative ways to monitor and adapt to the drought. PhD alumna Negin Ashoori developed computational modeling systems that analyze the effects of climate change, population, and other factors on Los Angeles’ water demand over time.

Ashoori, a Los Angeles native herself, moved to Pittsburgh after the first year of California’s drought and had no idea it would continue for another three years—the time it took her to earn her PhD. What she did know was that she had a passion for her home city, so she dedicated her research to studying the Los Angeles water supply.

Ashoori’s agent-based modeling systems simulate the interactions of different agents (consumers and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) within the city. Using data on precipitation, temperature, population, price, and conservation methods from 1970 to 2014, combined with the data on how the agents interact with one another, the computational models can predict how shifts in any variable will affect overall water demand.

“So far California and Los Angeles have just been looking at getting water for each year,” Ashoori explains. “They haven’t been looking at a longer period of time or the resiliency of the water system.”

Los Angeles currently imports 90% of its water, distributing it to city residents from the Los Angeles, California, and Colorado River Aqueducts, but climate change and other factors are rendering these water sources unreliable. Ashoori’s research will help the city find new solutions to combat increasing water demand.

Ashoori collaborated with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to influence their planning and decision making throughout the drought. “It’s rewarding to work on a project that is really close to me,” she says. “My family lives in Los Angeles, so anything I’m doing will hopefully help them. It’s nice to work on a project that might have an effect on Los Angeles’ future sustainability.”

Ashoori continues to study aspects of California’s water supply at her post doctoral position with Stanford University, where her new projects focus on recycled water and storm water recapture and treatment in Los Angeles and Sonoma.