Sep 14, 2015

NSF Awards $12 Million to Establish Urban Water Sustainability Research Network

The network will create technological, institutional and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises

NSF Urban Water Innovation Network

A consortium of 14 U.S. academic institutions received a $12-million award from the National Science Foundation to address challenges that threaten urban water systems in the U.S. and around the world. University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers David Letson and Kenny Broad are among the network’s principal investigators.

The newly established Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN), led by Colorado State University, will create technological, institutional and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.

UM Rosenstiel School Professors of Marine Ecosystems and Society Letson and Broad will help design innovative technological solutions, such as green infrastructure, sustainable urban drainage networks and floodplains that can enhance the sustainability of water systems across urban water systems and measure the impacts of these solutions.

The network will establish six highly connected regional urban water sustainability hubs in densely populated regions across the nation to help communities transition to sustainable management of water resources. The South Florida urban area, which includes the cities of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, will be one of the six water sustainability study regions being used as an observatory to identify key sustainability indicators.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Risks Perception Survey, water crises are the top global risk to the viability of communities throughout the world. From the crippling droughts and water shortages in the West to the devastating floods in the East and South, water systems in the U.S. have been impacted by changes in climate, demographics and other pressures. Reliance on water is why Americans express greater concern about threats to water than about any other environmental issue, according to latest Gallup poll of environmental concerns.

Extreme events and global climate change can have profound impacts on water security, shattering the most vulnerable communities and instilling enormous costs on governments and economies. Effective response to these challenges requires transitioning to both technological and management solutions that protect water systems from pressures and enhance their resilience.

The vision of UWIN is to create an enduring research network for integrated water systems and to cultivate champions of innovation for water-sensitive urban design and resilient cities. The integrated research, outreach, education and participatory approach of UWIN will produce a toolbox of sustainable solutions by simultaneously minimizing pressures, enhancing resilience to extreme events, and maximizing co-benefits. These benefits will reverberate across other systems, such as urban ecosystems, economies and arrangements for environmental justice and social equity.

Strategic partnerships and engagement with other U.S. and international networks will extend UWIN’s reach to more than 100 cities around the world. Key UWIN partners and collaborators include the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities.

This research project will ultimately produce an Urban Water Sustainability Blueprint, outlining effects and tradeoffs associated with sustainable solutions for cities of all sizes. It will also provide steps and guidance for action based on the collective knowledge gained by the research and the collaborative approach of the SRN.

The UWIN consortium includes: Colorado State University, University of Miami, Arizona State University, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Florida International University, Howard University, Oregon State University, Princeton University, University of Arizona, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Riverside, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Oregon and University of Pennsylvania.