Exporting the Cost of Dams

Last year, former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi proclaimed: “We will defend each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary.” He was referring to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that Ethiopia is constructing, which may affect the flow of the Nile River into Egypt. A year later, talks between the two nations still have […]

Getting Past the “Yuck” Factor: Challenges for Public Acceptance of Recycled Water

A recent article in Slate ran with the attention-grabbing title “Thirsty West: Why Californians Will Soon be Drinking their Own Pee.”  The article was motivated by the planned $142 million expansion of a water reuse facility in Orange County, which will increase the local district’s capacity to take wastewater and convert it into sterile, drinking-quality […]

Conservation Return on Investment Analysis: Three Case Studies

An increasing number of conservation projects designed to address ecological management, protection, and restoration are being judged based on the investment returns they are able to produce. The costs, benefits, and risks of these projects can all be assessed using conservation return on investment (ROI) analysis, a method to help conservancies prioritize possible programs based […]

Managing Shoreline Retreat in the United States: A Three-Part Strategy

Sea-level rise will increasingly threaten coastal communities. Responses to the issue have generally been grouped into three broad categories: protect, accommodate, and retreat. All three of these strategies will be needed and deployed to varying degrees around the United States. Highly developed areas—think New York City—will require some structural protection. Certain facilities that need to […]

Valuing Conservation in the Context of Climate Change

In the twentieth century, flooding caused more deaths and property damage in the United States than any other natural disaster. Most climate models predict that flooding will worsen in the future, a prospect that is leading a growing number of communities to explore the use of natural areas as protection against extreme events. These areas […]

Using Satellites to Understand Drought

A recent article in The Atlantic Cities highlighted a research paper published in Science by Jay Famiglietti, a professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, and Matt Rodell, Chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  Famiglietti and Rodell use data from a new generation of Earth observing […]

Unconventional Fuel Production and Water Resources

Crude oil and natural gas production from unconventional reservoirs is experiencing accelerated growth in North America, much of which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This shift in the energy industry has been accompanied by rising concerns over its potential impact on water resources. Developing these fuels is thought to require more water […]

Making Flood Insurance Affordable

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) found itself floundering in debt after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, sparking a legislative push to overhaul it. The result was a risk-based pricing plan under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, signed by the president last July after passing with wide bipartisan support. But recently, questions about […]

Water Smart—Dollar Smart

Each year, the US government spends billions of dollars to build, maintain, and manage water infrastructure and water resources. Federal principles directing how the US Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies assess, plan, and invest in flood control, water storage, navigation infrastructure, and other water resources date back to 1983. The realities of science, […]

Polar Interpretations of a Study of Shale Gas Development and Surface Water

On Monday, my colleagues, Sheila Olmstead, Jhih-Shyang Shih, Ziyan Chu, Alan Krupnick and I published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences testing for evidence of impacts to surface water quality from shale gas development across four different pathways.  We used more than a decade of data from over 20,000 surface […]