Municipal Water Infrastructure Symposium
In the spirit of measuring what we care about, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide guidelines to measure “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.” In this work, I show where permanent or semi-permanent, autonomous or semi-autonomous technologies (objects not processes) can measure and induce progress towards those goals and where they cannot. To do this, I apply the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (Ostrum, 2005) to each of the seven normative definitions from the SDGs as “action arenas”. For each normative definition I examine if technologies exist or can be created to affect a positive outcome for consumers in that particular action arena using nine evaluative criteria. For those arenas that can be advanced with technologies, I perform a benefit-cost analysis that aims to highlight the next steps for policymakers and engineers. This analysis is applied to the United States as a case study considering its physical systems, regulations, and governance structures. This work, combined with efforts to translate the United States’ systems and structures, can lead to multinational applicability. The theme of this work is expounding the idea of a water smart grid to where it can and cannot be used effectively. I conclude that the material artifacts of a water smart grid can advance the SDG of safety and affordability. However, technology alone cannot assign people to jurisdictions limiting its ability to advance goals of universal and equitable access.