Kim Quesnel is a PhD candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department where she is co-advised by Dr. Newsha Ajami and Dr. Richard Luthy through the NSF Engineering Research Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) and Stanford’s Water in the West program.

Kim’s research investigates urban water demand as a key component of advancing future water supply planning. Her work focuses on uncovering the drivers of urban water demand using modern computational tools. As part of this work, she has looked at how media coverage and coupled public awareness of the recent historic California drought were related to changes in water use behavior. She is also using high resolution data from smart water meters to model demand at the customer level. Additionally, motivated by the water sector’s chronic fiscal challenges, Kim is researching novel approaches to water financing and governance that can help to increase innovation in the water sector. Her research has been covered by the LA Times, Scientific American, High Country News, Water Deeply, and other news outlets.

Prior to coming to Stanford, Kim worked as a civil engineer in Denver, Colorado in the field of environmental remediation, responsible for both technical design work and project management. She has also worked on a wide range of water-related research projects including the laboratory investigation of tsunami wave breaking behaviors at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory in Oregon, the assessment and design of water filtration in rural Thailand, and the study of glacier hydrology through field research in Alaska. Kim received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology from Stanford University. In 2016, she was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STAR fellowship for her research on urban water demand forecasting. In 2018, she was selected as a member of Stanford's Rising Environmental Leaders Program (RELP), and in 2019 she was one of two inaugural ImagineH2O Water Innovation Policy Fellows.

Honors & Awards

  • Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship, Environmental Protection Agency (2016-present)

Professional Education

  • Bachelor of Science, Calif Polytechnic State Univ, S.L.O., Civil Engineering (2010)
  • Master of Science, Stanford University, CEE-MS (2015)
  • M.S., Stanford University, Civil and Environmental Engineering (2015)
  • B.S., California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Civil Engineering (2010)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Large Landscape Urban Irrigation: A Data-Driven Approach to Evaluate Conservation Behavior WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Quesnel, K. J., Ajami, N. K. 2019; 55 (1): 771–86
  • A case-study based framework for assessing the multi-sector performance of green infrastructure. Journal of environmental management Gordon, B. L., Quesnel, K. J., Abs, R., Ajami, N. K. 2018; 223: 371–84


    Green infrastructure is emerging as a holistic stormwater management strategy that can also provide multi-sector benefits. Robust demonstration of project success can help leverage the appeal of green infrastructure to different sectors and open the door to a variety of funding opportunities. Yet comprehensively assessing the performance of these natural systems can be challenging, especially when communicating the benefits to a wide variety of stakeholders. A cohesive, well-described assessment structure may promote a higher degree of investor confidence by more comprehensively monitoring and measuring green infrastructure success. This paper develops a conceptual framework that incorporates a robust assessment component for communicating with potential investors through the inclusion of multiple evaluation methods, performance metrics, and risk categories. The applied performance of this framework is then validated using fourteen U.S. and international case studies. We found that our framework fit a wide range of projects while maintaining a degree of flexibility that did not sacrifice specificity when applied to individual case studies. This suggests that: 1) some GI projects already incorporate one or more evaluation methods; 2) a number of highly specific metrics-particularly social and economic performance metrics-exist that are capable of capturing a wide-range of benefits that can be easily integrated into a framework; 3) the incorporation of risk and risk management technique identification could be emphasized to increase investor confidence; 4) at least some degree of standardization across projects exists already which can help future project implementers design GI strategies that best fit their needs.

    View details for PubMedID 29936350

  • Advancing Water Innovation through Public Benefit Funds: Examining California’s Electricity Public Goods Charge Journal American Water Works Association Quesnel, K. J., Ajami, N. K. 2018; 110 (2)
  • A novel search algorithm for quantifying news media coverage as a measure of environmental issue salience Environmental Modelling & Software Roby, N. A., Gonzales, P., Quesnel, K. J., Ajami, N. K. 2018; 101: 249-255
  • Accelerating the Integration of Distributed Water Solutions: A Conceptual Financing Model from the Electricity Sector Environmental Management Quesnel, K. J., Ajami, N. K., Wyss, N. 2017; 60 (5): 867–881


    Modern challenges require new approaches to urban water management. One solution in the portfolio of potential strategies is the integration of distributed water infrastructure, practices, and technologies into existing systems. However, many practical barriers have prevented the widespread adoption of these systems in the US. The objective of this paper is to address these challenges by developing a conceptual model encompassing regulatory, financial, and governance components that can be used to incorporate new distributed water solutions into our current network. To construct the model, case studies of successfully implemented distributed electricity systems, specifically energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, were examined to determine how these solutions have become prominent in recent years and what lessons can be applied to the water sector in a similar pursuit. The proposed model includes four action-oriented elements: catalyzing change, establishing funding sources, using resource pathways, and creating innovative governance structures. As illustrated in the model, the water sector should use suite of coordinated policies to promote change, engage end users through fiscal incentives, and encourage research, development and dissemination of new technologies over time.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00267-017-0914-4

  • Changes in water consumption linked to heavy news media coverage of extreme climatic events Science Advances Quesnel, K. J., Ajami, N. K. 2017; 3 (10): e1700784


    Public awareness of water- and drought-related issues is an important yet relatively unexplored component of water use behavior. To examine this relationship, we first quantified news media coverage of drought in California from 2005 to 2015, a period with two distinct droughts; the later drought received unprecedentedly high media coverage, whereas the earlier drought did not, as the United States was experiencing an economic downturn coinciding with a historic presidential election. Comparing this coverage to Google search frequency confirmed that public attention followed news media trends. We then modeled single-family residential water consumption in 20 service areas in the San Francisco Bay Area during the same period using geospatially explicit data and including news media coverage as a covariate. Model outputs revealed the factors affecting water use for populations of varying demographics. Importantly, the models estimated that an increase of 100 drought-related articles in a bimonthly period was associated with an 11 to 18% reduction in water use. Then, we evaluated high-resolution water consumption data from smart meters, known as advanced metering infrastructure, in one of the previously modeled service areas to evaluate breakpoints in water use trends. Results demonstrated that whereas nonresidential commercial irrigation customers responded to changes in climate, single-family residential customers decreased water use at the fastest rate following heavy drought-related news media coverage. These results highlight the need for water resource planners and decision makers to further consider the importance of effective, internally and externally driven, public awareness and education in water demand behavior and management.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1700784

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5656424