Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering
Reduced river flows and groundwater depletion as a result of climate change and population growth have increased the effort and difficulty accessing and processing water. In turn, residential water costs from municipal utilities are predicted to rise to unaffordable rates for poor residential water customers. Building on a regional conjunctive use model with future climate scenarios and 50-year future water supply plans, our study communicates the effects of climate change on poor people in El Paso, Texas, as water becomes more difficult and expensive to obtain in future years. Four scenarios for future water supply and future water costs were delineated based on expected impacts of climate change and groundwater depletion. Residential water use was calculated by census tract in El Paso, using basic needs indoor water use and evaporative cooling use as determinants of household water consumption. Based on household size and income data from the US Census, fraction of household income spent on water was determined. Results reveal that in the future, basic water supply will be a significant burden for 40% of all households in El Paso. Impacts are geographically concentrated in poor census tracts. Our study revealed that negative impacts from water resource depletion and increasing populations in El Paso will lead to costly and difficult water for El Paso water users. We provide an example of how to connect future resource scenarios, including those affected by climate change, to challenges of affordability for vulnerable consumers.
Heyman, J. M.,
Mayer, A. S.,
Predictions of household water affordability under conditions of climate change, demographic growth, and fresh groundwater depletion in a southwest US city indicate increasing burdens on the poor.
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