UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The application of agent based modeling to simulate residential water use responses to urban growth, regulation, and social influence in Kelowna British Columbia, Canada. Bepple, Jonathan


The complexity of human and environment systems breed problems with no clearly definable, single best solution. Water management along with other public goods management represent fields that require coping with these problems. Agent based models (ABMs) have been shown to be an effective method of modeling the complex cross-scale interactions and feedbacks that contribute to the difficulty of large scale management in complex social and ecological systems. Herein is presented a framework for an ABM that incorporates novel methods in a new application to residential water use. The ABM developed in this thesis is a contribution to the literature in five ways: (1) active agents who can adapt to their social setting and environment have been implemented, (2) heuristic-based decision making is used within the model to improve realism, (3) the decision making process is rooted in the Theory of Planned Behaviour framework, (4) agents’ multi-faceted personalities are modeled using quantitative social data, and (5) the model allows for the exploration of price and volume allocation structure changes, education, centralized irrigation programs, water restrictions, land-use changes, and social influences simultaneously. The ABM is applied to the case study of Kelowna, BC to assess residential water users’ responses to urban growth, regulation, and social influences. The most conservative growth estimates (no new development) show no increase in outdoor water use, while urban sprawl could result in an increase of 1.8% annually. Watering restrictions (29%-49% decreases) and leasing irrigation rights to a centralized irrigator (11%-20% decreases) were found to be the most impactful single policies, while the combination of rationing, restrictions, and price increases were found to have the largest influence overall (38% - 55% decreases). The social composition of the study area is such that social influence leads the population towards more water wasting behaviour. Although education programs were ineffective at reducing outdoor water use in the model, they were somewhat effective at mitigating the effect of water wasting influences. Altogether, the decision support tool provided by this ABM fills a gap in water modeling and can provide valuable insight into social dynamics and responses to system change.

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