The Clean Water Matters: Challenges and Research Perspectives Workshop was funded by the NSF and organized by the New York Institute of Technology in collaboration with Peking University. It took place in Beijing, China on April 18, 2014. The workshop resulted in a broad-based research framework drawing from academia, the scientific and academic community, and entities that focus on the advancement of science and technology, including national agencies, foundations, and corporate partners. Read the report here.
For more information about the workshop, click here.
As part of a study on potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, the EPA compiled and analyzed data from the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry 1.0, a public website managed by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). The peer-reviewed analysis uses over two years of data - find out more here.
The US Government Accountability Office looked at current issues and future projections for freshwater availability and use in the United States. Read the findings in this GAO report, which also details actions taken by states and federal agencies to date, as well as an overview of further steps that federal agencies could take to support water use management.
Water and energy are critical resources that are reciprocally linked; this interdependence is often described as the water-energy nexus. Meeting energy-sector water needs, which are often large, depends upon the local availability of water for fuel production, hydropower generation, and thermoelectric power plant cooling. The U.S. energy sector’s use of water is significant in terms of water withdrawals and water consumption. In 2005, thermoelectric cooling represented 41% of water withdrawn nationally, and 6% of water consumed nationally. The majority of the anticipated increase in water consumption by 2030 is attributed to domestic biofuel and oil and gas production. Policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels are faced with deciding whether to respond to the growing water needs of the energy sector, and if so, which policy levers to use (e.g., tax incentives, loan guarantees, permits, regulations, planning, or education). Many U.S. energy sector water decisions are made by private entities, and state entities have the majority of the authority over water use and allocation policies and decisions.
Conventional hydropower accounts for approximately 8% of total U.S. net electricity generation, and more than 80% of U.S. electricity is generated at thermoelectric facilities that depend on cooling water. Water availability issues, such as regional drought, low flow, or intense competition for water can curtail hydroelectric and thermoelectric generation. An assessment of the drought vulnerability of electricity in the western United States found broad resiliency, while also identifying the Pacific Northwest and the Texas grid at higher risk. Future withdrawals associated with electric generation may grow slightly, remain steady, or decline depending on a number of factors. These include reduced generation from facilities using once-through cooling because of compliance with proposed federal cooling water intake regulations or shifts in how electricity is generated (e.g., less from coal and more from wind and natural gas).
Energy choices represent complex tradeoffs; water use and wastewater byproducts are two of many factors to consider when making energy choices. For many policymakers, concerns other than water.—low-cost reliable energy, energy independence and security, climate change mitigation, public health, and job creation.—are more significant drivers of their positions on energy policies.
This paper explores the potential of ‘boundary work’ perspectives for enhancing current approaches in water resources management and research with a focus on developing countries. Boundary work thinking is analyzed in the context of three currently leading approaches for water and natural resources management, i.e. Integrated Water Resources Management, Adaptive Management, and the Ecosystem Approach. Given the political dimension of water resources management, questions of governance are merged into the boundary work perspective. The paper introduces the Boundary Work framework as developed by Mollinga, discusses the potential of the framework for enhancing water resources management and research practice and proposes amendments to the framework.
GAO was asked to examine the vulnerability of the nation’s energy infrastructure to climate change impacts. This report examines: (1) what is known about potential impacts of climate change on U.S. energy infrastructure; (2) measures that can reduce climate-related risks and adapt energy infrastructure to climate change; and (3) the role of the federal government in adapting energy infrastructure and adaptation steps selected federal entities have taken. GAO reviewed climate change assessments; analyzed relevant studies and agency documents; and interviewed federal agency officials and industry stakeholders, including energy companies at four sites that have implemented adaptive measures.
In 1950 the global population was just over 2.5 billion. Now, in 2013, it is around 7 billion. Although population growth is slowing, the world is projected to have around 9.6 billion inhabitants by 2050. Most of the population increase will be in developing countries where food is often scarce, and land and water are under pressure. To feed the global population in 2050 the world will have to produce more food without significantly expanding the area of cultivated land and, because of competition between a greater number of water users, with less freshwater. On top of land and water constraints, food producers face climatic and other changes which will affect food production.
There remains great uncertainty as to how climate change will affect any given locality, but it seems likely that it will have a profound effect on water resources. Projected rises in average temperature, more extreme temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns are likely to alter the amounts and distribution of rainfall, ice and snow melt, soil moisture, and river and groundwater flows.
This document from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) discusses adapting water and food management to climate change.
This report by the National Research Council is an updated look at the issue of abrupt climate change and its potential impacts. The report also summarizes the state of our knowledge about potential abrupt changes and abrupt climate impacts and calls for action to develop an abrupt change early warning system to help anticipate future abrupt changes and reduce their impacts.
Feb. 2014 - EPA’s National Stormwater Calculator (SWC) is a desktop application that estimates the annual amount of rainwater and frequency of runoff from a specific site anywhere in the United States (including Puerto Rico). Estimates are based on local soil conditions, land cover, and historic rainfall records.
Jan. 2014 - This article from The Global Warming Policy Foundation and Dr. Benny Peiser discusses the use of coal in Germany and some other parts of Europe.
Jan. 2014 - Presented in the January 8, 2014 Federal Register, the proposed rule that was signed in September 2013, Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, can be found here.
Dec. 2013 - This report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the year 2013 has tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The report includes global and U.S. data and covers the state of the climate, temperature, precipitation and more.
Sept. 2013 - This dissertation by Paul A. Ekness at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst completes a continental and regional scale assessment using statistical and simulation modeling to investigate ecohydrologic impacts within watershed systems.
June 2013 - This document from the Transportation Research Board defines a standardized, conceptual approach to assessing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the transportation component of supply chains, critiques current methods and data used to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and outlines a work plan to develop a decision tool to help estimate the carbon footprint of the transportation component of supply chains.
Report Number: 3002001154
More than a decade ago, EPRI identified water availability constraints as a major issue facing current operations and future development of the electric power sector in the United States and internationally. As a result, EPRI initiated research to assess and reduce both current and future vulnerabilities to water shortages. This report derives and applies algorithms for calculating water consumption by the U.S. electric power, municipal, and agricultural sectors. Using the most recent available national data sets, a national water consumption budget is calculated based on the spatial resolution of U.S. counties as well as United States Geological Survey (USGS) medium-sized watersheds.
Historically, federal conservation programs have focused on solving environmental and natural resource problems on individual farms. While improvements have been made in water quality and wildlife habitat at the farm scale, landscape-scale environmental benefits in streams, lakes, and bays, for example, are less commonly documented. Excess nutrients (nitrogen, N, and phosphorus, P) continue to impair thousands of waterways, and eutrophication leads to hypoxia (low oxygen levels that harm aquatic life) or dead zones in water bodies around the country. This report focuses on the Mississippi River Basin.
Both abrupt changes in the physical climate system and steady changes in climate that can trigger abrupt changes in other physical, biological, and human systems present possible threats to nature and society. Abrupt change is already underway in some systems, and large scientific uncertainties about the likelihood of other abrupt changes highlight the need for further research. However, with recent advances in understanding of the climate system, some potential abrupt changes once thought to be imminent threats are now considered unlikely to occur this century. This report summarizes the current state of knowledge on potential abrupt changes to the ocean, atmosphere, ecosystems, and high latitude areas, and identifies key research and monitoring needs. The report calls for action to develop an abrupt change early warning system to help anticipate future abrupt changes and reduce their impacts.
Maintaining flows and quality of water resources is critical to support ecosystem
services and consumptive needs. Understanding impacts of changes in climate and land use on ecohydrologic processes in a watershed is vital to sustaining water resources for multiple uses. This study completes a continental and regional scale assessment using statistical and simulation modeling to investigate ecohydrologic impacts within
Watersheds across the continental United States have diverse hydrogeomorphic
characters, mean temperatures, soil moistures, precipitation and evaporation patterns that influence runoff processes. Changes in climate affect runoff by impacting available soil moisture, evaporation, precipitation and vegetative patterns.
Continental scale runoff is affected by soil moisture and vegetative cover. Cover
crops, low tillage farm practices and natural vegetation contribute to less runoff.
Developing policies that encourage protection of soil structure could minimize runoff and aid in maintaining sustainable water resources. Best Management Practices and Low impact development at the national level with continued stormwater legislation directed towards sustainable land use policy will improve water quantity and quality.
On January 30th, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced phase II of the National Stormwater Calculator Climate Assessment Tool. The tool provides decision-makers with an easy-to-use, customizable resource to identify and incorporate green infrastructure and low impact development techniques to reduce storm water runoff. The updated tool includes changes in seasonal precipitation levels; the effects of more frequent, high-intensity storms; and changes in evaporation rates based on climate change scenarios validated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Stormwater Calculator and Climate Assessment Tool package was originally mentioned as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. The announcement was made during a keynote speech at the 14thNational Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their "Global Analysis - Annual 2013," showing the year 2013 has tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The report includes global and U.S. data and covers the state of the climate, temperature, precipitation and more. To read the report, click here.
U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). (2013) Watershed modeling to assess the sensitivity of streamflow, nutrient, and sediment loads to potential climate change and urban development in 20 U.S. watersheds. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC; EPA/600/R-12/058F. Available from the National Technical Information Service, Alexandria, VA, and online at http://www.epa.gov/ncea.
Decision support systems (DSS) tools in the water management sector are usually developed upon hydrologic simulation models, to which they provide at least an interface for facilitated use beyond the restricted group of model developers. They quite often provide also routines for decision analysis and decision making (e.g., optimization methods). In some cases they also include functionalities targeting the management of participatory processes (e.g., elicitation of stakeholders’ preferences, group decision making, and conflict resolution).
The EU funded SPLASH project (Coordinating European Water Research for Poverty Reduction, http://www.splash-era.net/) has thus included in its activities the writing of this report on Using modern decision support systems for evidence based policy making in IWRM developing countries with a general objective to harness the potential of modern decision support systems for policy making in the field of integrated water resources management in developing countries.
This study presents a quantitative national assessment of urban water availability and vulnerability for 225 U.S. cities with population greater than 100,000. Here, the urban assessments account for not only renewable water flows, but also the extracted, imported, and stored water that urban systems access through constructed infrastructure. These sources represent important hydraulic components of the urban water supply, yet are typically excluded from water scarcity assessments. Results from this hydraulic-based assessment were compared to those obtained using a more conventional method that estimates scarcity solely based on local renewable flows. The inclusion of hydraulic components increased the mean availability to cities, leading to a significantly lower portion of the total U.S. population considered ‘‘at risk’’ for water scarcity (17%) than that obtained from the runoff method (47%). Water vulnerability was determined based on low-flow conditions, and smaller differences were found for this metric between at-risk populationsusing the runoff (66%) and hydraulic-based (54%) methods. The large increase in the susceptible population between the scarcity measures evaluated using the hydraulic method may better reconcile the seeming contradiction in the United States between perceptions of natural water abundance and widespread water scarcity. Additionally, urban vulnerability measures developed here were validated using a media text analysis. Vulnerability assessments that included hydraulic components were found to correlate with the frequency of urban water scarcity reports in the popular press while runoff-based measures showed no significant correlation, suggesting that hydraulic-based assessments provide better context for understanding the nature and severity of urban water scarcity issues.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) convened a workshop entitled “Water Management Technology Best Management Practices and Innovations Workshop for the Process Industries,” held May 13-14, 2009 at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC. The report of the workshop, along with earlier ASME work, is available here.
The impacts of climate change on freshwater resources will primarily be due to changes in temperature, rising sea levels, and increased precipitation variability. Changes in precipitation, evaporation, and snowmelt will cause widespread impacts in the hydrologic cycle relating to availability and quality. Climate induced changes in land use, population, and urbanization will increase the intensity of demand and the vulnerability to extreme events.
The AWRA has posted on its web site an article on Water Resources Sustainability. The article covers definitions of water resources sustainability, a comparison between the rate of water use and the rate at which water can be replenished, and a systems analysis approach which discusses how water sustainability is affected by long duration, the use rate, moderate solutions to problems, and the flexibility of solutions.
To date there has been limited research on integrated water resource management from a global perspective. This paper gives an overview of current and impending water problems while assessing the investment needs for integrated water management as a possible solution to projected water challenges.
The International Water Association has made available power point slides on the impact of biofuel development on water resources. Click on the link above to view the slides.
Arid regions and their cities are vulnerable to future water scarcity because climate change threatens to reduce supply and rapid growth increases demand. The study of water sustainability in these regions and cities transcends concern about these topics, and includes the dynamics of water-energy relationships, tradeoffs involved in the use of irrigated landscaping for temperature control, and feedbacks between urban growth, the economy, and the environment.
The meaning of the standard fecal coliform test used to monitor water quality has been called into question by a new study that identified sources of Escherichia coli bacteria that might not indicate an environmental hazard.
Read Environmental Science & Technology’s new virtual issue available online featuring peer-reviewed articles published in 2010 and 2011 from the journal. This research shows progress on the water-energy nexus – a hotbed of research with global implications for energy and environmental policies.
A collection of EPA publications related to wastewater technology and treament.