It is accepted that water is at the foundation of our economic, societal, and environmental well-being. It is also well known that nearly every product in global commerce is dependent on water for its production and delivery to the marketplace. The objective of the proposed project is to determine, through integrated physical and economic models and under various scenarios of population growth, climate change, land use, and emissions, the impact of direct and indirect drivers on water quality, quantity, and availability in the Great Lakes region. The project will emphasize quantifying the stocks and flows of fresh water, analyzing the underlying factors affecting water use and allocation decisions, and developing cost frameworks for capturing the value of having a specific amount of water available at a given purity, time, and location. The Great Lakes region is chosen due to its large volume of available freshwater (but low rate of replacement), high economic impact, complex governance issues, increasing competition for on water quantity among water-use sectors (e.g., domestic, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and ecosystems), and existing and future threats water quality deterioration. This project will result in several advances in the analysis of water management issues, including (1) development of new, physically-based modeling approaches to simulate quantity and quality in the Great Lakes region; (2) creation and testing new, empirical models of the energy embodied in water delivery and treatment for the Great Lakes context; (3) selection of relevant future climate, population, land use, and emissions scenarios to use as input to water quantity and quality predictions and in analyses of uncertainty in those predictions; (4) prescription of data and methods required for economic valuation of water resources in each of the major sectors of water use in the Great Lakes basin; (5) identification of the most significant current and future withdrawals and consumptive uses of water in the basin; (6) collection of data on the prices, benefits, and costs of water consumption in each major water use sector; (7) estimates of opportunity costs to determine where water use minimization and elimination will have the most significant and sustainable benefits; (8) identify policy innovations (e.g. pricing policies to address vulnerabilities in the Great Lakes water system under future scenarios; and (9) identify areas where technological innovations are most needed to protect vulnerabilities in the Great Lakes systems. Results from this project will aim to demonstrate that the proposed frameworks for assessing the value of water as a material can be extended to other regions in the U.S. and the world for informed water use decision-making and policies promoting a sustainable future.
Collaborative Research: Modeling and Analyzing the Use, Efficiency, Value and Governance of Water as a Material in the Great Lakes Region Through an Integrated Approach