(Austin and Boston) --Boston University's Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (CGMF) announced the funding and pursuit of a series of studies with the goal of assessing how siloed municipal water agencies in the state of Texas can transition to an Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) model.
The structure would increase water use efficiency in urban environments, revitalize aging infrastructure, and preserve freshwater inflow to the major bays and estuaries along the Texas Gulf Coast. ISE's work will focus on an integrated water utility financial modeling, and the model results will be used to establish recommendations to inform a viable path for utilizing an IUWM in Texas.
"Establishing new and effective management practices for urban water is a critical aspect of moving toward a sustainable energy future in Texas, given the energy-water nexus, and the collision of population growth, climate change, and aging water infrastructure," said Dr. Peter Fox-Penner, professor of the practice at Boston University Questrom School of Business and director of the university's Institute for Sustainable Energy. "ISE's work in integrated water utility financial modeling will provide important data and inform practical recommendations to water management stakeholders on transitioning to effective integrated urban water management practices."
Water scarcity coupled with increasing population growth, increasing water demand, and declining infrastructure systems poses a threat to both residents of Texas and the vital freshwater inflow needed to feed sensitive bays and estuaries along the Gulf Coast. In order to increase the efficiency of water use in urban areas and enhance conservation of limited freshwater resources, many stakeholders are now considering fundamental changes in water management, including transitioning to IUWM-related approaches such as the One Water paradigm.
While there is growing interest in improving the manner in which Texas municipalities manage water, such as the establishment of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program by the Texas Legislature in 2013, there are significant hurdles to the implementation of an IUWM approach.
"Building a framework for a successful transition to an IUWM approach in Texas requires careful examination of existing regulatory, financial, cultural, and knowledge barriers, in addition to close collaboration with local water stakeholders and industry experts," said Marilu Hastings, vice president, sustainability programs for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. "Freshwater resources are already stretched beyond their limits, driven by factors such as increasing population, inadequate conservation, and climate change. We're confident Boston University's project will help inform a viable path to ensure future water supplies for our environment and the residents of Texas."
As part of the study, the Institute for Sustainable Energy will form a National Advisory Committee of water experts with knowledge of water issues in Texas and in other geographies to inform its work, and pursue outreach to and ongoing engagement with key stakeholders in Texas. At the conclusion of the project, ISE will disseminate an actionable report on its assessment of how IUWM can be advanced in Texas, with recommendations for decisionmakers and practitioners who are positioned to influence and drive change toward an IUWM.
Institute for Sustainable Energy
The Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy is dedicated to facilitating the transition to a sustainable, climate-safe global energy system. Through interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, and collaborative engagement, ISE's mission is to ensure that the energy systems of the world provide abundant, sustainable, and universally accessible energy services to both emerging and advanced economies. For more information, visit http://www.bu.edu/ise.
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
The Austin-based Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is a mission?driven grantmaking foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems. The foundation works as an engine of change in both policy and practice in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity, and economic vibrancy. Since 1978, the late George P. Mitchell and Cynthia Woods Mitchell and CGMF have distributed or pledged more than $500 million in grants to a number of causes, programs, and institutions. For more information, visit http://www.CGMF.org.