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Ahmed Rachid El-Khattabi

Each year, The Graduate School honors graduate students in programs throughout our University for their powerful discoveries that contribute to a better future for people and communities in North Carolina.

“Rachid’s work provides a clear and discernable benefit to North Carolina in that it helps policymakers understand how and when they can use pricing strategies to manage water resources more effectively,” said adviser T. William Lester, Ph.D.

Better Modeling the Demand for Water Could Help Conservation Efforts
Ahmed Rachid El-Khattabi, City and Regional Planning
Impact Award

The South is projected to face severe water stress in the coming decades, and many water utilities use policies such as pricing strategies to improve management of this critical natural resource. Doctoral student Ahmed Rachid El-Khattabi’s research focused on the effectiveness of demand-oriented policies in influencing customer water usage.

El-Khattabi and colleagues used Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) single-family home billing data from the years 1999 through 2016. OWASA implemented several demand-oriented policies during many of those years. El-Khattabi’s team studied each household’s usage relative to its average usage, while controlling for other factors. His team found that previous studies had been inconsistent in modeling relevant environmental factors, underestimating the effectiveness of pricing policies. Specifically, El-Khattabi’s preliminary findings suggested that measuring environmental factors more accurately improved results by approximately 16 percent. While previous models suggest that customers cut back on consumption 2.5 percent for every 10 percent increase in price in non-drought circumstances, more accurate modeling predicts that customers actually reduced consumption by upwards of 3 percent.

El-Khattabi’s research holds the potential to increase accuracy of estimates that water utilities seek when formulating water-management pricing strategies. The findings, shared with OWASA, provide vital information to water utilities statewide.


The longstanding Impact Award, made possible through the generous support of the Graduate Education Advancement Board, recognizes discoveries with a direct impact on our state in the present time. The Horizon Award, first presented in 2017, recognizes discoveries with future potential to benefit North Carolina (and beyond).

Learn more about the 2019 Impact and Horizon Award winners and their projects.

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