About Me

Bachelor of Science, Engineering – University of Arizona
Bachelor of Science, Psychology – University of Arizona
Masters of Science, Environmental Technology Management – Arizona State University
Doctor of Philosophy, Resource and Environmental Management – Simon Fraser University

Professional profile: LinkedIn & Current CV

Email: steve.conrad@ires.ubc.ca | Skype: droptiks | Phone: 1-604-649-6746

Areas of research interest: water-energy nexus, decision making, utility planning, environmental modelling, system dynamics, energy and water conservation behaviour, and climate change.

Profile: I started my education in Arizona with a degree in optical engineering and became interested in broader environmental management issues through my research on using lasers to monitor air particulate matter.  I continued to foster my passion for environmental management while pursuing a second degree in psychology at the University of Arizona and a Masters of Science in Environmental Technology Management at Arizona State University.  I moved with my wife and daughter to Vancouver in 2006 while working as a consultant to Metro Vancouver, leading the development of their water operations optimization program.  Before completing my PhD at Simon Fraser University, I worked for close to 20 years as a water utility consultant.  Over the course of my career, I have worked with numerous municipalities in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom on holistic water management decision-making, which has fostered a unique understanding on the importance of including human factors in engineering solutions. I am an associate research professor (adjunct) in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and chair the REM Water Research Group, and occasionally teach, at Simon Fraser University. I am a Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions fellow, and I sit on the board of BC Water and Waste Association as a director for the American Water Works Association. I am also a chair of BCWWA’s risk and resiliency (f.n.a. climate change) committee and a member of BCWWA’s leadership council (honoured member profile in the winter 2011/2012 journal). I volunteer on project advisory committees for the Water Research Foundation and I routinely present on energy water quality management, energy and water efficiency, decision-making, and utility operations at various conferences throughout the year.

Recent Research:

Principal Investigator – Water and Electric Utility Integrated PlanningFunding: Water Research Foundation, American Water Works Association, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
This project originates from the realization that water and electric utilities plan separately, yet share the same water resource; a resource which is increasingly scarce. Already a number of existing and planned power stations have been scaled back due to lack of water and likewise many water supply options – such as desalination or reuse – are highly energy intensive adding further to the greenhouse gas burden.
New water supplies require more energy. Increased energy supplies require more water. This is just one example of the positive feedback cycle existing with regard to water and energy management, there are many more. This creates a massive challenge. It also creates the opportunity for a high level of innovative solutions of which planning needs to be at the forefront. However despite numerous management similarities between drinking water, wastewater, and electric utilities many manage, operate, and plan in separate silos. Today the effort bridging related water-energy management issues is minor and at best uncoordinated. There is a lack of shared resources, knowledge and approaches. Most effort addresses sub-components of the problem, rather than the consequences and opportunities of interaction.
But how can water and electric utilities work together to manage scarce resources? Water and electric utilities often operate in silos, even in combined utilities, and many barriers do exist to such initiatives, yet already many water service providers and electric/natural gas utilities provide combined services. Lessons can be learnt from such organizations as well as from innovative “water-only” or “electric only” utilities that have been proactive in integrated resource planning. In addition, an examination of the decision factors and planning criteria can help bridge communication channels between water and electric utilities and identify opportunities for integrated activity.
There are appreciable opportunities for integrated water / electric planning and this gives cause for further investigation. The approach, detailed in this project, will support this investigation by documenting existing examples of integrated planning, identifying opportunities and barriers for advancing integrated planning, and creating a resource for a shared understanding of commonalities and differences between water and electric utilities and their respective planning goals.

A final report is available on the Water Research Foundation website – http://www.waterrf.org/PublicReportLibrary/4469.pdf.

Principal Investigator – The use of discrete choice experiments and a coupled socio-hydrological model to inform water policymaking in the Okanagan region of British Columbia
Abstract: The Okanagan region in southeast British Columbia is a unique place offering opportunities for agriculture, tourism and other commercial enterprises, along with attractive residential amenities such as stunning panoramas and lakeside communities. The Okanagan also features high per capita water use and is confronting rapid population growth, altered landscapes, and climate change induced alterations to the water supply cycle. Decision makers managing freshwater systems in the Okanagan need to balance the competing tasks of meeting growing demands for water and protecting hydrological processes supporting the broader ecosystem. To do so, they need representative information about the complex interactions between physical and social processes in the Okanagan Basin watershed. In this thesis, I examine how discrete choice experiments and a coupled socio-hydrological model can be used to advance understanding of the preferences and behaviour of water users in the Okanagan, and to inform water policymaking. First, I use a discrete choice experiment to investigate and model the preferences of residents for landscaping options affecting outdoor water use. I find that residential preferences for lawns in the Okanagan differ from the current characteristics of many lawns in the region, offering the potential for policies to promote changes to reduce water use. I then use similar methods to examine and model the preferences of farmers concerning drought response policies in an adjacent agricultural setting. I find that these farmers have preferences for drought response plans that contain opportunities to trade water during droughts and that a moderate reduction of water supply during droughts may also be acceptable to them. Finally, I develop and demonstrate the application of a coupled socio-hydrological model that links the behavioural model developed from my resident study with a hydrological model of the Okanagan Basin. I find that discrete choice models can be used to prepare a valuable proxy for human behaviour to inform water related decisions and that the coupled socio-hydrological model presents a more sophisticated representation of human-water system interactions than conventional hydrological models, improving the information available to support decision makers. [learn more]

Recent Awards:

2010,2011,2012 Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions Graduate Fellowship (PhD); 2009 SFU President’s Research Stipend; 2009, 2008, 2007 Graduate Fellowship; 2007 Pacific Century Scholarship

Recent Publications:

Conrad, S.A., Rutherford, M.B., Haider, W. (2017). Profiling Farmers’ Preferences about Drought Response Policies Using a Choice Experiment in the Okanagan Basin, Canada. Water Resources Management 31, 2837–2851.
Conrad, S., Yates, D. (submitted, in final revision). “Coupling stated preferences with a hydrological water resource model to inform water policies for residential areas in the Okanagan Basin, Canada.” Journal of Hydrology.
Conrad, S., Pipher, J., Haider, W. (submitted, under review) “How current lawn attributes affect the preferences of water conserving lawn options: An individualized choice experiment in Kelowna, British Columbia.” Landscape and Urban Planning.
Conrad, S., Kenway, S., Jawad, M. (2017). Water and Electric Utility Integrated Planning. Denver, CO: Water Research Foundation.
Conrad, S. (2017). Amalgamating Local Data to Inform Water Related Decisions: Summary Report. Burnaby, BC: Pacific Water Research Centre, Simon Fraser University.
Kenway, S., Conrad, S., Jawad, M., McIntosh, B. (2016), “Water and Energy Integrated Planning and Capacity Building.” proceedings of the International Water Association World Water Congress, Brisbane, Australia, 9-14 October 2016.
Conrad, S. (2016). Introduction: Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products. London, ON: Firefly Publishing