University of North Carolina (UNC) and U.S. Forest Service researchers with the Center for Integrated Forest Science (CIFS) recently received a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundationand the USDA to design strategies for communities in southeastern U.S. shifting from water abundance to water scarcity due to climate change effects on weather patterns.
Accustomed to abundant water resources, the Southeast experienced acute water shortages in Atlanta, Raleigh, and other municipalities in recent summers. Climate change is expected to exacerbate existing water shortages due to continued population expansion and land use change in the region.
The new project will use the Research Triangle—the area around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill in North Carolina—to test a simulation-based framework that links models developed by UNC and Forest Service scientists to analyze how climate and land use changes impact regional hydrology with models and approaches from engineering, finance, and behavioral sciences.
Gregory Characklis, director of the UNC Center for Watershed Science and Management, will lead the interdisciplinary project, which will include researchers from the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) and Cornell University. SRS CIFS project leaders Jim Vose and Dave Wear and supervisory research forester John Coulston from the SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis program will provide their expertise on the funded project, which aims to:
- Project the impacts of climate and land use change combined with growing population on community vulnerabilities to water shortage in the southeastern U.S.;
- Assess the ability of current infrastructure and institutions to meet future water demands; and
- Engage local utilities and governments to help identify regional vulnerabilities as well as preferred development paths and possible tradeoffs.
The ultimate goal of the project is to come up with a framework to simulate robust regional water management strategies that can adapt to changing conditions that can be applied throughout the Southeast and other regions transitioning from water abundance to scarcity.