Research Projects

Our research activities aim to create knowledge and increase fundamental understanding of challenges to urban water systems and find solutions to enhance preparedness for responding to water crises in regions across the United States. The Network’s research activities are conducted through 21 projects, organized into four integrated Thrusts.


Thrust A projects aim to advance fundamental knowledge about the sustainability of urban water systems, by comparing observed trends in the past with alternative future conditions. First, water supply-demand patterns under prevailing and future socioeconomic scenarios are investigated. These land and water use, land cover and socioeconomic scenarios are then used to assess responses and two-way interactions between urban form/development patterns and land-atmospheric processes in urban areas. The relationship between coupled human-natural urban water systems and regional climate, effects on urban heat islands, and the ensuing co-benefits for human health are investigated.

The projects under this thrust are organized by three themes:

Theme A1 projects characterize water supply-demand patterns under future socioeconomic scenarios.  Land and water use, land cover and socioeconomic scenarios are used to assess two-way interactions and feedback between urban form and land-atmospheric processes.

Theme A2 projects asses the impacts of urban water systems on urban heat islands and the regional climate and the ensuing co-benefits for human health.

Theme A3 projects examine effects of changes in climate, populations, demographics and policy on hydrologic and ecological processes over the observed past and future assessment periods.


Using data, models, and enhanced process understanding from Thrust A, the impacts of innovative technological solutions on sustainability of water systems across ecohydrologic regions are examined under Thrust B. These solutions include: building- to community-scale resource recovery and reuse systems, hybrid centralized-decentralized water infrastructure systems, fit-for-purpose water systems, green infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage networks (SUDS), and resilient floodplains.

Theme 1 focuses on solutions including include building to community-scale resource recovery and reuse systems

Theme 2 focuses on solutions including green infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage networks and floodplains


Activities under Thrust C explore how cities can intentionally foster the widespread adoption of infrastructure, development patterns, consumer behaviors, and management practices that advance sustainable water management. To understand overcoming barriers to adoption of sustainable solutions, the social and behavioral systems that govern change are investigated. Components of the system include the actors, preferences, policies, institutions and other elements that shape outcomes at multiple scales from the site to the metropolis. Theories of urban change are studied to understand the social networks that shape water systems, the dynamics of household innovation, and the processes of large scale urban change.

A particular emphasis of the projects in Thrust C is understanding best practices for integration of urban planning with urban water management.


Thrust D activities focus on integration of data, models and products from all other themes and projects to facilitate enhanced decision making. This thrust enables synthesizing results from assessment projects under Thrust A, technological solutions under Thrust B, and socioeconomic and management solutions under Thrust C to identify viable options that provide maximum benefits at the system level. A system approach following an urban water sustainability framework is used to explore driving forces, pressures, states, impacts, and responses/solutions. This system approach explores benefits, dis-benefits, co-benefits, and tradeoffs associated with various solutions at various spatial and temporal scales. The synthesis will determine the sustainability metrics/indicators that comprise UWIN Urban Water Sustainability Blueprint.

Integration Activities