The National Science Foundation and the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture last week announced 26 awards totaling $25 million in the joint Water Sustainability and Climate program to fund research on water's link to climate change, land use and ecosystems.
The groups say despite water's importance, there are major gaps in understanding water availability and quality, as well as the effects of a changing and variable climate, and of human activities, on the water system.
"Water is the lifeblood of Earth's environment," said Tom Torgersen, lead NSF WSC program officer. "Knowledge of the flow and function of water is paramount to understanding how humankind's activities interact with and alter our environment. The mounting pressures of population increases, land use changes, and climate change underscore the need to understand the role of water."
The WSC program's goal is to understand and predict interactions among Earth's water system and climate change, land use (including agriculture, managed forests, and rangeland systems), our "built environment," and ecosystems around the world.
"Agriculture in the United States is dependent on the availability and quality of water; however, a number of factors, including climate and the environment, could have a significant effect on our nation's water resources, which in turn has consequences for farmers, livestock producers, forest and rangeland managers, and rural economies," said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA.
"These grants are critically important to our understanding of how the water system is affected by external factors, which ultimately helps farmers and rural communities prepare for future challenges."
WSC category 1 awards are made for small team synthesis, modeling, integration and assessment projects that use existing data or new measurements to study entire watersheds and groundwater sites. Both NSF and USDA/NIFA funds support this category.
WSC category 2 awards are for place-based modeling studies with new observations. NSF supports this category.
WSC category 3 awards support synthesis, modeling and integration grants that use only existing data to integrate and synthesize information across watershed and groundwater sites. Both NSF and USDA/NIFA fund this category.
Topics addressed by this year's awards include:
• The effects of climate change on agriculture-water systems;
• Water quality and supply in two tropical nations, Ecuador and China;
• Effects of agricultural decision-making and adaptive management on food security;
• Water sustainability in a snow-fed arid river system;
• Land-use and hydrology in the Panama Canal watershed; and
• Decision processes, climate change and water resources in the agricultural Midwest.
View the 2014 Water Sustainability and Climate program awards.