Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Yehuda L. Klein

Committee Members

William D.Solecki

Naresh Devineni

Timon McPhearson

Subject Categories

Environmental Engineering | Hydrology | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Sustainability | Water Resource Management

Keywords

Ecosystem Services, Extreme weather, Essential serrvice delivery

Abstract

Water and energy are drivers of living systems. This work provides an assessment of the Water Energy Nexus in the United States, comparing the well-watered north-east and the arid west. Electric grid systems are most stressed on hot summer afternoons. Grid stress can lead to cascading failures of electricity, water and wastewater treatment systems. (Zimmerman, 2017) Water for power generation and/or water supply depend on ecosystem services. The ecosystem services and resource trade-offs embedded in provision of a watt of power and an ounce of potable water, however, have yet to be comprehensively enumerated nor have the cost relationships been explicitly quantified My data collection and analysis suggest that in the study areas water and electricity use increases in hot weather. Geography and the age and size of homes are also qualifiers. Data analysis suggests that wealthier people use more water and electricity per household/person than the less wealthy. Review of water provisioning ecosystem services reveal regional differences. The Texas Colorado River watershed serves multiple uses; water supply, water for electric generation, irrigation and water for unrestricted recreation. (LCRA, n.d.) The Cat-Del watershed serves only one; water supply. The value of ecosystem services and payments for ecosystem services are reflected in part in the price of water and electricity services and in the regional taxes in the study areas. In addition to the price of water, payments for ecosystem services include transaction costs: regulatory activities that monitor and protect environmental quality and infrastructure necessary to bring the service to market. (Coase,1960) Research for this paper uncovered an exciting possibility. Regardless of the ecosystem Services payment framework, no large-scale mechanism for identifying and aggregating payments for ecosystem services in water and electric utilities were found. This gap in utility accounting offers an opportunity for transforming utility accounting systems to identify and account for payments for ecosystem services (PES). Developing large scale corporate PES accounting systems is the next step in the process.

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