As Nevada’s drought continues, and the outlook for future water supply dims, the University of Nevada’s newly funded NSF project, Reno, will bring together key players from across the state to address water problems.
“The project, called Nevada Water, will create a collaborative and inclusive partnership of water providers, users, policymakers and academics with the primary goal of creating a dynamic research, social and educational networks,” said Anne Norling, a professor of geography at the University of Nevada, Reno. Nolin is also director of the University’s Graduate Program in Hydrological Sciences, which he is leading, which has been awarded $149,923 in NSF funding.
Across Nevada, water users, suppliers and policymakers are facing increasing pressures, including reduced snowpack, extreme weather, rapid population growth and rising urban-rural tensions around water sustainability. The network she and her team are building will include key public, private, tribal, research, nonprofit and educational water partners.
“Our guiding principle is science and society, which emphasizes inclusion, communication, connection and collaboration,” she said. “The project grew out of our response to NSF’s call to develop networks around sustainable regional systems, with a particular focus on urban and rural challenges.
“Nevada’s water problems are unusual because our water supply comes from groundwater and mountain areas, both of which are affected by climate change and urban development. We believe it is necessary to build a strong water-focused state in Nevada and Nevada. While an inclusive network of key stakeholders, our university and non-academic partners are well placed to co-lead this work.”
This is a one-year planning grant during which the structure and goals of the Nevada water network will be created. The next step is to apply for a five-year, $15 million Track 1 grant through the NSF Sustainable Regional Systems Research Network program.
“It’s important that our network doesn’t have policies,” she said. “Instead, it aims to serve as a learning network where we collectively identify challenges, fill knowledge gaps, understand the social and hydrological dimensions of water problems, and collectively develop strategies to address seemingly intractable water problems.”
The Nevada Water team includes Stephanie McAfee, associate professor in the University’s Department of Geography and Nevada climatologist; Eric Marchand, associate professor in the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-Director of the Nevada Water Innovation Institute; Sean McKenna, Executive Director of the Hydrological Sciences Division at the Desert Research Institute; and Nevada Jennifer Edmonds, associate professor and director of the Environmental and Resource Science Program at State University.
In this one-year project, Nevada Water partners will work together to
- Identify key urban and rural water sustainability issues;
- Discuss and frame different ways of thinking about water sustainability solutions;
- Identify information, knowledge and resource gaps that need to be filled;
- Develop a shared vision for an ideal, equitable and sustainable water future,
- Determining what will be the best network structure to address Nevada’s urban and rural water sustainability challenges.
“To achieve these goals, we will form regional and theme-based groups of partners who will prepare the nascent network for a two-day meeting focused on characterization of information gaps, shared water priorities and network development,” Norin said. . “Nevada Water will jointly foster new knowledge and collaborative strategies to significantly advance integrated, coordinated, innovative and sustainable regional systems science.”