» Research

National Geographic: Freshwater

Freshwater ecosystems–lakes, rivers, and the smaller ponds and streams–make up only two percent of Earth’s water resources, and only one percent remains drinkable. Learn more about the planet’s freshwater and how you can protect what’s left. Read More

Using Graywater and Stormwater to Enhance Local Water Supplies: An Assessment of Risks, Costs, and Benefits (2016)

Chronic and episodic water shortages are becoming common in many regions of the United States, and population growth in water-scarce regions further compounds the challenges. Increasingly, alternative water sources such as graywater (untreated wastewater that does not include water from the toilet but generally includes water from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs, clothes washers, and laundry sinks) and stormwater (water from rainfall or snow that can be measured downstream in a pipe, culvert, or stream shortly after the precipitation event) are being viewed as resources to supplement scarce water supplies rather than as waste to be discharged as rapidly as possible. Graywater and stormwater can serve a range of non-potable uses, including irrigation, toilet flushing, washing, and cooling, although treatment may be needed. Stormwater may also be used to recharge groundwater, which may ultimately be tapped for potable use. In addition to providing additional sources of local water supply, harvesting stormwater has many potential benefits, including energy savings, pollution prevention, and reducing the impacts of urban development on urban streams. Similarly, the reuse of graywater can enhance water supply reliability and extend the capacity of existing wastewater systems in growing cities. Read More

EPA Water Research

Water research conducted at EPA provides the science and tools necessary to develop sustainable solutions to 21st century water resource problems, ensuring water quality and availability in order to protect human and ecosystem health. Read More

Assessing the significance of climate and community factors on urban water demand

Ensuring adequate water supply to urban areas is a challenging task due to factors such as rapid urban growth, increasing water demand and climate change. In developing a sustainable water supply system, it is important to identify the dominant water demand factors for any given water supply scheme. This paper applies principal components analysis to identify the factors that dominate residential water demand using the Blue Mountains Water Supply System in Australia as a case study. The results show that the influence of community intervention factors (e.g. use of water efficient appliances and rainwater tanks) on water demand are among the most significant. The result also confirmed that the community intervention programmes and water pricing policy together can play a noticeable role in reducing the overall water demand. On the other hand, the influence of rainfall on water demand is found to be very limited, while temperature shows some degree of correlation with water demand. The results of this study would help water authorities to plan for effective water demand management strategies and to develop a water demand forecasting model with appropriate climatic factors to achieve sustainable water resources management. The methodology developed in this paper can be adapted to other water supply systems to identify the influential factors in water demand modeling and to devise an effective demand management strategy. Read More

U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read More

Green Infrastructure (EPA)

Green infrastructure uses natural hydrologic features to manage water and provide environmental and community benefits. By improving the environment and preserving open space, green infrastructure supports sustainable communities. Read More

America's Water Risk: Water Stress and Climate Variability (Columbia Water Center White Paper)

The emerging awareness of the dependence of business on water has resulted in increasing awareness of the concept of “Water Risk” and the diverse ways in which water can pose threats to businesses in certain regions and sectors. Businesses seek to secure sustainable income. To do so, they need to maintain a competitive advantage and brand differentiation. They need secure and stable supply chains. Their exposure risks related to increasing scarcity of water can come in a variety of forms at various points in the supply chain. Given increasing water scarcity and the associated deterioration of the quantity and quality of water sources in many parts of the world, many “tools” have been developed to map water scarcity risk or water risk. Typically, these tools are based on estimates of the average water supply and demand in each unit of analysis. Often, they are associated with river basins, while business is associated with cities or counties. They provide a useful first look at the potential imbalance of supply and demand to businesses. However, the analyses on which such tools are based understate the potential water risk due to climate variations. In most places, even if the resource is not overappropriated on average, persistent shortage induced by climate conditions can lead to stress. A clear understanding of shortages induced by droughts, in terms of the magnitude, duration and recurrence frequency will better inform the water businesses and water related sectors. To properly diagnose water risk, one needs to examine both existing demand and variations in renewable water supply at an appropriate spatial resolution and unit. A metric that can inform the potential severity of a shortage is the accumulated deficit between demand and supply at a location. Here, we provide ways to estimate this risk and map it for the USA at a county level. The measures of water risk are estimated using over sixty years of precipitation and the current water use pattern for each county. Unlike past work that considers estimates of groundwater recharge and river flow as measures of supply, we use precipitation as the renewable water supply endogenous to the area, and consider natural and human uses of this water. The reliance on imported river water or mined ground water is exposed in the process. This is important to establish in the face of spatial competition for existing water resources. A Columbia Water Center, Earth Institute, Columbia University, and Veolia Water publication. February 2013. Read More

The Global Water System Project: Science Framework and Implementation Activities

Library Holdings. Water plays a key role in the development and functioning of society by serving as a basic resource for activities such as irrigation, livestock production, fisheries, aquaculture, and hydroelectric power. Adequate water use in house-holds, businesses and manufacturing is a prerequisite of economic growth. Since many of the world’s diseases are waterborne, we need clean water and sanitation for reducing the incidence of these diseases. And, most significantly, water provides habitat and sustenance for a rich diversity of plant and animal species that make up aquatic and riparian ecosystems, providing the basis for many of the goods and services received by society. Society is forcing unprecedented changes on global water resources through worldwide abstraction and pollution of water. Society also has a pervasive indirect impact because anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing long-term global changes in weather extremes and climate. Changes in the global water system are difficult to understand with simple cause-effect relationships because of the intense and complex linkages and feedbacks between different parts of the system. These changes and linkages also sometimes lead to abrupt changes in water systems such as the eutrophication of coastal aquatic systems, loss of biodiversity, the exceedance of safe water supply in urban areas, or intense competition between different water sectors for remaining water resources. Read More

Fisheries

NOAA Research, in cooperation with its research partners, provides scientific results to help understand and manage our nation’s ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes fisheries resources. Many of these resources are in need of rebuilding following years of excessive harvesting and the degradation of their environments from both natural and human-induced causes. Commercial fishing activities contribute over $28 billion a year to our economy, and over 17 million Americans spend about $25 billion a year on recreational marine fishing activities. It is, therefore, vitally important that science-based measures are implemented to protect, restore, and manage these valuable resources. This corresponds directly to NOAA’s Mission Goal 1: Protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management. Read More

Ecological Observing and Forecasting

For many years, NOAA has continuously improved its ability to provide timely and accurate forecasts of the conditions of Earth’s environment. With advancements in observing and forecasting technology, NOAA is developing its capability to observe entire ecosystems and to predict ecosystem-wide changes before they occur. Read More

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