Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Ecological Sciences and Engineering

First Advisor

Laura C. Bowling

Committee Chair

Laura C. Bowling

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth c. McNie

Committee Member 2

Venkatesh Merwade


In order to support both human and environmental needs, high quality fresh water must be available when and where it is required. As a metric for indicating unsustainable water usage, WSI is only useful when the values reflect accurate interactions between supply and demand; however, the complexity of temporal and spatial variability of available fresh water complicates the analysis of water stress.

The overall goal of this project was to investigate the spatial variability of water stress across the United States and the appropriate spatial scale for management decisions. To accomplish this, a national dataset describing spatial distribution and breakdown of water supply and demand, land use characteristics, and population demographics was compiled at the watershed scale. Water stress index was calculated for each 10 digit hydrologic unit code in the US by developing a surface water routing program to calculate water stress and discharge. The right to withdrawal freshwater is closely regulated by government entities that need accurate information regarding unsustainable practices. In the national scale analysis, patterns of population and public supply induced water stress appeared when calculations were performed on a higher resolution in the East; while large scale water stress in the West remained similar to lower resolution maps. Due to spatial variability, calculations should be performed at the highest practical resolution to preserve effects of population centers.