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Water and Water Resources: Blue Environment & Economy

“Water: E2S2- Water: Engineering, Science, Economics, Society Collaborative”

Life on Earth depends on water and there is simply no substitute for it. Yet, humanity has degraded or depleted many water resources and is now confronted with severe water crises in large parts of the World. Humanity’s response to the water crisis requires that scientists, engineers, economist, landscape architects, and policy makers work together closely and develop effective and sustainable strategies for managing this essential natural resource. The study of water and water resources is also a timely opportunity for URI students to enhance their learning and discovery and make them successful in an increasingly globalized economy and society. At URI we will achieve this goal by investing in three new faculty positions that strategically address the most pressing issue of the 21st century: “Safe, Clean, Sustainable and Secure Water“.

Twenty faculty members in four URI Colleges (CELS, COE, A&S and GSO) and ten departments developed a proposal to hire three new faculty and build a new interdisciplinary, trans-college collaborative known as “Water: Engineering, Science, Economics, Society” (Water: E2S2). Their major goal is to establish a leading interdisciplinary water and water resources program at URI by bridging natural, social sciences, engineering, and outreach activities. The overarching objective is to effectively integrate the theme of “water” into the URI curriculum and to develop attractive global education opportunities for URI students. Expected outcomes to measure the success of this effort will include an increase in the number and quality of (1) collaborative proposal submitted; (2) students advised in undergraduate and graduate education and research settings; (3) collaborative publications, collaborative courses, certificates and programs.

Three tenure-track faculty will be hired into the collaborative at the Assistant Professor level in the following areas: (1) water resources and quality, (2) water technology and planning, and (3) economic and policy dimensions of water use.

The new faculty will be involved in the development of programs and tools such as a “Graduate Water Certificate” program; a “Water Design Lab/Studio“; and a new minor in “Water Studies”. These new offerings, combined with existing strengths within the University, will send a strong message to prospective students that URI is a center of excellence for water training.

The position descriptions below indicate the specific focus of each faculty line.

  1. Water Resources and Quality - This position will be filled by a globally oriented water resources hydrologist and/or water quality scientist with a demonstrated ability to research the impact of dynamic changes on the distribution, quantity, and quality of freshwater water resources now and in the future. Potential research and outreach themes will include two or more of the following (1) water resources security in North America and emerging economies, (2) detection and management of emerging contaminants, their transport, fate, remediation and biological effects, (3) future water availability against the background of a changing climate and human activity, (4) movement of contaminants through an interconnected world, and (5) development of appropriate adaptation strategies.
  2. Water Technology and Planning - This position will be held by an engineer/scientist with a strong interdisciplinary background who can provide analysis and solutions to global and local challenges related to water infrastructure and the management of conventional and unconventional water resources. Expertise in the planning, design and management of two or more of the following areas will be required: water reuse and treatment technology; resilient water infrastructure systems, including wastewater and storm water systems; decentralized or sustainable water infrastructure; and the challenges of appropriate water technology in emerging economies or the United States.
  3. Economic and Policy Dimensions of Water Use - This position will be occupied by a social scientist who focuses on the human dimensions of water resource management by modeling the demand side of water use and studying the policy aspects of resource management and administration including institutional analysis. The individual must have a strong background in the institutions by which water is allocated, and the design of new water institutions, including water markets, for effective water demand management. Particularly, the scientist will focus on the design of water management approaches and the environmental impacts and benefits of reduced water consumption. Potential research and outreach themes will include two or more of the following (1) design of policies and institutions to more effectively manage fresh water quality and quantity, (2) theory and data analysis to improve the management of human use of water, (3) laboratory and/or field experiments to study human behavior regarding water use under different water management policies, (4) modeling of combined human-natural systems for environmental benefits of reduced water extraction for human use.

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