A systems approach to municipal water portfolio security: A case study of the phoenix metropolitan area

Richard R. Rushforth, Maggie Messerschmidt, Benjamin L. Ruddell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We present a rigorous quantitative, systems-based model to measure a municipality's water portfolio security using four objectives: Sustainability, Resilience, Vulnerability, and Cost (SRVC). Water engineers and planners can operationalize this simple model using readily available data to capture dimensions of water security that go far beyond typical reliability and cost analysis. We implement this model for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area under several scenarios to assess multi-objective water security outcomes at the municipal-level and metropolitan area-level to water shocks and drought. We find the benefits of adaptive water security policies are dependent on a municipality's predominant water source, calling for a variegated approach to water security planning across a tightly interrelated metropolitan area. Additionally, we find little correlation between sustainability, resilience, and vulnerability versus cost. Therefore, municipalities can enhance water security along cost-neutral, adaptive policy pathways. Residential water conservation and upstream flow augmentation are cost-effective policies to improve water security that also improve sustainability, resilience, and vulnerability and are adequate adaptations to a short-term Colorado River shortage. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area's resilience to drought is higher than that of any of its constituent municipalities, underscoring the benefits of coordinated water planning at the metropolitan area-level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1663
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Systems assessment
  • Water policy
  • Water portfolio planning
  • Water resources management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Biochemistry


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