Many viewpoints, one problem: Managing water resources responsib

Aug 29, 2013 by Jennifer Donovan
Many viewpoints, one problem: Managing water resources responsib
Scientists from Michigan Tech and universities around the country are working together on a sustainable plan for managing Florida's water resources.

Why is a Michigan Technological University professor working to develop a model for water resources management in South Florida, 1,500 miles and several ecosystems removed from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?

"Water is an extremely valuable resource everywhere," David Watkins explains. "We're facing similar challenges around the Great Lakes: the effects of climate change, extreme water levels, pollution from agricultural run-off," says the Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering, who specializes in water resources engineering. "And, like Florida, we have many stakeholders with sometimes competing interests in managing and protecting this vital resource."

So he and researchers from 10 other universities as far away as Hawaii are studying water resources management in South Florida, including the key component of how stakeholders assess water issues and make . The $4.4 million, 5-year study is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

It's a multidisciplinary team. Watkins is developing a water management model for the project. Other specialists are looking at the hydrogeology (ground and surface water geology) of South Florida, the economic aspects of and the impact of water use on the environment. Ecological economists are studying potential tradeoffs between the value of the ecosystem and the direct economic benefits that water use can confer. Climate scientists are looking at the and variability on water scarcity, while behavioral scientists are examining people's biases and beliefs and their effects on the policy and decision making process.

"Our job is not to solve the problem of in South Florida," Watkins explains. "We are using South Florida as a case study to see how multiple stakeholders can cope with complex issues and move towards more sustainable water use .

Water resources management presents a variety of challenges. Housing and business development make certain demands on water resources. Industry and industrial waste management cause other impacts. Economic development is quite simply dependent on water. Climate change affects , and water use in turn can exacerbate impacts on ecosystems.

"The environment typically gets shortchanged," Watkins says. "That's why we need to look at ecosystem protection as part of the equation. We need new information on the economic value of ecosystem services and the impacts of water use on ecosystems. We want to figure out how we can support both ecosystem protection and economic development."

The system he develops will apply an adaptive management approach, based on various scenarios, which the study team met in June to start defining. The scenarios assume significant sea level rise, rainfall and temperature changes over land, and a range of population and economic growth rates.

Stakeholders as well as scientists will participate in the study, helping the team develop management plans that are most likely to generate public support.

The scientists will meet again in fall to move forward with their work.

Explore further: Spotlight on sustainable highland aquatic resources

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spotlight on sustainable highland aquatic resources

Jul 03, 2013

Ensuring sustainable water and secure food resources will help protect the planet as it faces climate change, provide economic benefits for poor communities, and produce more food per unit of agricultural ...

Distinguishing drought and water scarcity

Mar 15, 2013

Water resources can become strained by both natural factors such as drought and by human factors such as unsustainable use. Water resource managers can develop practices to reduce overuse of water resources, but they cannot ...

Models for a more effective response to climate change

Aug 05, 2013

There is now widespread acceptance that the climate is changing due to human-related greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change will affect all sectors of society and the environment at the local, national ...

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

14 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.