People, climate change, and anthropogenic drought: modeling the complexity behind the interconnected systems
Providing adequate water supply to the growing number of urban residents will be a challenge faced by many utility managers throughout the remainder of this century. This challenge will be exacerbated by intensifying climate change that is likely to bring more frequent and intense droughts to some regions in the United States and around the world. Understanding the impacts of these droughts on urban areas and the role that people play in either mitigating or intensifying them is crucial if society is to maintain its current trajectory towards sustainable urban development. In this study, we propose to study the phenomena known as anthropogenic droughts (i.e., droughts that are induced by humans either directly through unsustainable water use or indirectly through anthropogenic climate change) and the impacts these droughts have on urban areas. In particular, we will develop a multi-scale framework to characterize and evaluate anthropogenic droughts, with a special focus on the impacts to socio-ecological resilience in urban areas. This framework will ultimately be generalizable, but we will test it in three cities located in the Colorado River basin: Denver (Colorado), Las Vegas (Nevada), and Phoenix (Arizona). These cities are often used as test beds for studying drought and water management, as they are historically arid and rely on water from the Colorado River, which has been shown to be highly susceptible to droughts. The proposed research represents a crucial step toward improving urban socio-ecological resilience to anthropogenic droughts.