Dr. Ajami specializes in sustainable water resource management, water policy, innovation, and financing, and the water-energy-food nexus. Her research throughout the years has been interdisciplinary and impact driven, focusing on the improvement of the science-policy-stakeholder interface by incorporating social and economic measures and effective communication.
She is a gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. Before joining Stanford, she worked as a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, and served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee where she worked on various water and energy related legislation. She has published many highly cited peer-reviewed articles, coauthored two books, and contributed opinion pieces to the New York Times and the Sacramento Bee. She was the recipient of the 2005 National Science Foundation award for AMS Science and Policy Colloquium and ICSC-World Laboratory Hydrologic Science and Water Resources Fellowship from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Ajami received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the UC, Irvine, an M.S. in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona.

Current Role at Stanford

Director of Urban Water Policy

Academic Appointments

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Science Advisory Committee Member, Delta Science Program (2018 - Present)
  • Advisory Board Member, Sustainable Silicon Valley (2016 - Present)
  • Board Member, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Gubernatorial Appointment) (2013 - Present)

2017-18 Courses

All Publications

  • 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
  • An integrative regional resilience framework for the changing urban water paradigm SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND SOCIETY Gonzales, P., Ajami, N. K. 2017; 30: 128-138
  • A Framework for Building Efficient Environmental Permitting Processes SUSTAINABILITY Ulibarri, N., Cain, B. E., Ajami, N. K. 2017; 9 (2)

    View details for DOI 10.3390/su9020180

    View details for Web of Science ID 000395590500022

  • The changing water cycle: impacts of an evolving supply and demand landscape on urban water reliability in the Bay Area Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water Gonzales, P., Ajami, N. 2017; 4 (6): e1240

    View details for DOI 10.1002/WAT2.1240

  • 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

  • Coordinating water conservation efforts through tradable credits: A proof of concept for drought response in the San Francisco Bay area Water Resources Research Gonzales, P., Ajami, N., Sun, Y. 2017; 53 (9): 7662–7677

    View details for DOI 10.1002/2017WR020636

  • 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

  • Social and Structural Patterns of Drought-Related Water Conservation and Rebound Water Resources Research Gonzales, P., Ajami, N. 2017; 53

    View details for DOI 10.1002/2017WR021852

  • Monthly water balance modeling: Probabilistic, possibilistic and hybrid methods for model combination and ensemble simulation JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY Nasseri, M., Zahraie, B., Ajami, N. K., Solomatine, D. P. 2014; 511: 675-691
  • Complexity in microbial metabolic processes in soil nitrogen modeling: a case for model averaging STOCHASTIC ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND RISK ASSESSMENT Ajami, N. K., Gu, C. 2010; 24 (6): 831-844
  • Addressing snow model uncertainty for hydrologic prediction ADVANCES IN WATER RESOURCES Franz, K. J., Butcher, P., Ajami, N. K. 2010; 33 (8): 820-832
  • Reply to Comment by B. Renard et al. on "An integrated hydrologic Bayesian multimodel combination framework: Confronting input, parameter, and model structural uncertainty in hydrologic prediction'' WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Ajami, N. K., Duan, Q., Sorooshian, S. 2009; 45
  • Sustainable water resource management under hydrological uncertainty WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Ajami, N. K., Hornberger, G. M., Sunding, D. L. 2008; 44 (11)
  • Multi-model ensemble hydrologic prediction using Bayesian model averaging ADVANCES IN WATER RESOURCES Duan, Q., Ajami, N. K., Gao, X., Sorooshian, S. 2007; 30 (5): 1371-1386
  • An integrated hydrologic Bayesian multimodel combination framework: Confronting input, parameter, and model structural uncertainty in hydrologic prediction WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Ajami, N. K., Duan, Q., Sorooshian, S. 2007; 43 (1)
  • Multi-Model Combination Techniques for Hydrological Forecasting: Application to Distributed Model Intercomparison Project Results Journal of Hydrolometeorology Ajami, N. K., Duan, Q., Gao, X., Sorooshian, S. 2006; 7 (4): 755–768

    View details for DOI 10.1175/JHM519.1

  • Calibration Of A Semi Distributed Hydrologic Model For Streamflow Estimation Along A River System Journal of Hydrology Ajami, N. K., Gupta, H., Wagner, T., Sorooshian, S. 2004; 298 (1-4): 112-135