Measuring household water use in Hamilton

25 September 2014

Farnaz Farhangi

Water study: Farnaz Farhangi has been awarded a doctoral scholarship to study Hamilton’s household water use.

With the amount of rain we’ve had recently, it’s easy to forget that not so long ago the Waikato region was in drought. It’s difficult to prepare for water shortages or manage water allocation in a growing city when we don’t measure how much water people routinely use.

Scholarship to study Hamilton’s water management

That’s going to change. A PhD student, new to New Zealand, has been awarded a doctoral scholarship to assist her study into Hamilton’s water management. Farnaz Farhangi, from Iran, is one of seven recipients to be awarded 2014 Research Institute Scholarships from the University of Waikato.

She will receive $22,000 a year plus study fees for her three-year study into urban residential water use in Hamilton.

“There are increasing demands for Waikato River water, with the city’s population growing, and from other users in industry, power generation and agriculture, and I want to help find a way to best manage water demand and allocation,” Farnaz says.

“There are different options available, such was water metering and volume charging, but until we know how different households use water and how much, it’s difficult to implement a best solution.” Part of Farnaz’s study will be determining the variables that impact water consumption, including time of year, the age of a property and the number of people living in it.

Importance of predicting water usage

Hamilton households currently play a flat rate for water use based on property value, while business and commercial water users are metered and charged for what they use. The Hamilton City Council is permitted to take up to 95 million litres a day. “Water is a precious commodity, and we should know more accurately how households use it to be able to predict future flows, determine equitable cost solutions, and know where to target conservation measures,” Farnaz says.

During her three-year study Farnaz will be based in the Department of Economics at Waikato University Management School.

Qualifications in agricultural economics

Her bachelor and master’s degrees, which she earned in Tehran were in agricultural economics. “Like New Zealand, Iran is mostly agricultural and so when I was looking to study overseas, New Zealand seemed an obvious choice,” Farnaz says.

She contacted Professor Riccardo Scarpa in the Department of Economics who agreed to be her supervisor, alongside fellow economist Dr Dan Marsh. “I then spent a year getting my English up to speed before coming to New Zealand.” It was Professor Scarpa who suggested she apply for the Research Institute Scholarship, awarded through the Institute of Business Research at Waikato Management School.

Farnaz has come to New Zealand with her husband who was a professional footballer back in Iran. He’s looking for a job, but meanwhile is playing for the Waikato Futsal team.

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