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Water, People, and Ecosystems

Today more than 4 billion people live in regions that are threatened by water scarcity related to supply variability. Variability in the amount and timing of precipitation, combined with dynamic patterns of human water use and allocation influence socio–environmental systems worldwide. Climate change may  alter hydrological regimes  and hence put  humans, economic activity, built infrastructure, and ecosystems at risk. At the same time, competing demands on water resources drive decisions about water  allocation including: groundwater withdrawals, privatization, land-use and landscape changes, and water infrastructure management. Together, hydroclimatic and socioeconomic drivers of water variability interact with ecological systems in complex ways (e.g., feedbacks, non-linearities, and thresholds) to influence biodiversity, ecosystem status, and human behavior and welfare. 

This call for synthesis proposals is specifically focused on the integration of data and the development of models (e.g., simulation, theoretical etc.)  to enhance our understanding of the relationships between the spatial and temporal variability of water, ecological systems, and human welfare or behavior. This solicitation specifically focuses on the intersection of these three components with implications for policy and practice. The goal is to increase our understanding of how to balance the water needs of ecosystems and society if water availability is or may become more uncertain. 

We encourage the submission of projects that synthesize data, develop and apply models, or couple quantitative and qualitative information in new ways to address fundamental socio–environmental research questions on this topic.  “Fundamental research questions” are those with implications that go well beyond a single place or point in time to provide new insights that can contribute to solutions for water–environment–human challenges more generally. 

Below, we provide examples of questions that could be addressed. These examples are meant only to illustrate the diversity of potential topics related to the link between variability in water availability and socio–environmental systems, rather than the full extent of relevant topics.  ­­­­

  • Given changes in the timing and relative proportions of snowmelt and precipitation in many regions, how can water resource management systems and practices be dynamically adapted to support ecosystems and people?  How might long-term hydroclimatic variability be coupled with water-related disaster risk reduction strategies at multiple scales?
  • Growing populations and regional economies can broadly influence demands on water resources. What paths of water resource management have the potential to ensure the well-being of ecosystems and humans?
  • How can changes in water allocation among regions and sectors improve the sustainability and equity of socio-environmental systems, e.g., in the connectivity between upstream and downstream regions, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and cooperative water reuse and recycling?
  • How can the environmental and social impacts of water infrastructure projects be balanced at multiple scales? Are there alternative practices for achieving societal goals through different types of and approaches to water infrastructure?
  • What is the evidence that particular water policies, institutions, and practices can reduce stress on socio-environmental systems?  Given the vast differences in the social, economic, and cultural characteristics of different regions, how can water governance arrangements meet the joint needs of ecosystems and humans?

Brazil Forest Code

This project seeks to evaluate the impact of forest cover change on hydrological services in the Brazilian Amazon. More specifically, the Pursuit team is interested in determining (1) whether deforestation and pasture establishment have altered the water balance at different spatial scales in Rondônia; (2) if changes in seasonal water impact household agricultural production and welfare; and (3) if the new forest code will reverse any negative effects of land cover change on the human and hydrologic systems.

Role of Green Infrastructure

The purpose of this project is to test the hypothesis that the SESYNC process for team-synthesis research can be accelerated by new cyberinfrastructure specific to the research question, particularly when the domain scientists participate in the development process of the cyber tools. The socio-environmental research will be focused on the perception, role, and function of green infrastructure across urban and climate gradients in the U.S.

Water, People & Ecosystems

Today, more than four billion people live in regions that are threatened by water scarcity related to supply variability. Changes in the amount and timing of precipitation, combined with dynamic patterns of human water use and allocation, influence socio-environmental systems worldwide. At the same time, competing demands on water resources drive decisions about water allocation, including groundwater withdrawals, privatization, land-use and landscape changes, and water infrastructure management.

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