Tag Archives: water security

New project on urban water security and sustainability funded, $1.5M from TAMU

water reuse symbolTexas A&M University announced last week that it will fund a new interdisciplinary project on urban water security — “Pathways to Sustainable Urban Water Security: Desalination and Water Reuse in the 21st Century” — for $1.5M over the next three years.

Desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater and wastewater reuse are seen as major technological interventions that can address the increased pressure on water resources in the context of growing global demand for freshwater for domestic and productive uses. While offering new sources of water, critics highlight several impediments to their sustainable implementation and negative impacts across regions and environments. Our three-year project examines the global desalination and water reuse corporate and finance sector, analyzes the legal framework for unconventional water production across case study sites, and examines the complex water governance regimes that promote and challenge the transformation of this sector in water-stressed urban regions in Texas, California, Australia, and Israel.

I am leading the project with a team of Co-PIs that includes Dr. Christian Brannstrom (Geosciences), Professor Gabriel Eckstein (Law School), Dr. Robert Greer (Bush School), Dr. Mark Holtzapple (Engineering), Dr. Kent Portney (Bush School), Dr. John Tracy (TWRI), and Dr. Sierra Woodruff (Urban Planning). Our team will examine several aspects of desalination and wastewater reuse sector and socio-technical systems through a mixed methods approach designed to operate in an integrated and comparative interdisciplinary case study framework. We will develop a sectoral database as well as conduct surveys, documentary analysis, and semi-structured interviews to support systematic comparative case studies, social network analysis, and Q-Methodology, guided by four objectives tied to several research activities.

We will be hiring post-doctoral scholars and graduate students as we launch this interdisciplinary project in hopes to build a community of practice at Texas A&M around these grand challenges for the the 21st Century.

Eight interdisciplinary research projects will share $7 million in funding during the first round of Texas A&M University’s X-Grants program, an initiative of the 10-year, $100 million President’s Excellence Fund, the university announced today.

The funded projects represent 81 faculty members and other researchers from eight colleges—Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Geosciences, Liberal Arts, Medicine and Science—as well as the Mays Business School, the School of Law, the School of Public Health and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. In addition, two state agencies of The Texas A&M University System are represented: the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

The X-Grants program was launched in February 2018 with an open invitation to the Texas A&M faculty, staff and students to submit ideas, such as research problem statements, questions or topics. The invitation generated 1,682 ideas, resulting in 145 overarching research themes, which inspired 276 one-page proposals for X-Grants funding from A&M researchers.

For more details of the funded projects, visit the X-Grant program’s website: https://president.tamu.edu/xgrants/index.html.


Going to Brazil as Fulbright Scholar

IMG_1724Yesterday, I learned that I will be a Fulbright Scholar to Brazil to teach at the Universidade Federal de Ceará – Fortaleza (UFC) and conduct a research project on urban water provisioning and household water security. I am thrilled to work with students and faculty on an exciting project and further deepen our existing institutional and research relations for years to come.

Ten years ago, I thought I had left Brazil for the last time. I remember sitting in the Porto Velho airport, waiting for the intense smoke of burning forest to clear so I could take off to Brasília for my connection to Guarulhos.  I just completed four weeks of field work, traipsing through the countryside with a backpack GPS outside of Vilhena, measuring land cover and talking with farmers about crop rotation, land contracts, land clearance practices, and soybean production expectations. Data from this trip would become material for one of my last articles on Brazilian agricultural development and the dynamic transformation of Central Brazil’s Cerrado, a topic I studied for over eight years as a graduate student and early career faculty. But I thought my research trip to Rondônia was my last to Brazil. Professional and personal demands precluded further research abroad, and my interests turned toward the pressing social and environmental inequities closer to home and in a community I had first worked with in the early 1990s. I wanted to understand why low-income Mexican-Americans living in peri-urban and rural subdivisions (colonias) in South Texas still struggled for adequate, affordable and reliable drinking water.

Today, I study environmental justice, water governance, and household water insecurity. My research, funded by NSF, examines ad-hoc water delivery and inadequate potable water supply for tens of thousands of Mexican-Americans living in colonias. My research addressed a central paradox: Why, despite $1.7 billion invested in water infrastructure, do tens of thousands of people still lack secure drinking water along the Texas-Mexico border? Is water insecurity produced and maintained through existing water governance regimes? If so, how? To answer these questions, I conducted qualitative study of water insecurity, then developed and implemented the first household-scale metric of water security. This research has yielded six publications and has been reported in regional media.

Recent institutional collaborations between the Texas A&M University Geography Department and geography faculty at the Universidade Federal de Ceará – Fortaleza (UFC) have opened new, exciting, and unexpected possibilities for me to return to Brazil.  The Fulbright program will allow me to build on these emerging connections by deepening the sustainability of our educational and research relationships. The proposed project will provide the necessary institutional and collaborative context to exchange methodologies and research approaches on water resource governance and water security with Brazilian geographers. I may need to brush off my well-worn, dusty copy of Aurelio’s Portuguese-English dictionary, reorient my mental map of Brazil, and set my compass to the Northeast. But as a Fulbright Scholar, I will bring to bear my work on water security to problems of water provision in urban Brazil.