The University of Arizona in Tucson is the lead institution in a new $16
million, multi-university center that will develop ways to efficiently
manage water resources in semi-arid regions.
Professor Soroosh Sorooshian, of UA Hydrology and Water Resources, will
direct the new National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology
Center (STC). It will include researchers and students from several colleges
at UA, as well as those from several other universities, government agencies
and private institutions.
The world_s water resources are under extreme stress in many semi-arid
regions because of rapid development, variations in climate and disruptions
caused by long-term climate change. Sustaining these resources through the
21st century will depend on correctly managing water resources systems,
Developing water management strategies demands integrating and accommodating
a wide variety of needs, both environmental and human. To do this, the STC
will set research priorities by regularly bringing together researchers and
those who use the water resources.
STC researchers plan to rapidly transfer what they learn to those who can
apply it to water resources management. Among the users now active in the
center are the Salt River Project in Arizona, the Elephant Butte Irrigation
District in New Mexico and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California. As the research program evolves, other domestic and
international water users will be added to this list.
Since a large number of researchers from diverse locations are involved, the
center will be able to investigate larger, more complex problems than can be
addressed by individuals or small groups working in a local area.
Center researchers plan to study riparian systems and the various aspects of
water and salinity balance on a basin-wide scale. Then these results will be
used to develop basin-scale hydrologic and chemical models.
Social science research will focus on demographic and economic shifts,
changing legal structures and economic markets for water. It also will look
at changing public attitudes toward sustainable water management.
Ultimately, the center will develop numerical models and decision-making
tools that will allow users to optimally manage limited water supplies. In
addition, the STC will develop educational programs for use in science
The center aims to educate a new generation of water resources managers,
giving them an interdisciplinary perspective and new technological skills
The $16 million will fund center operations for five years. Participating
academic institutions include:
o New Mexico Tech
o Penn State University
o The University of California (UCLA, Scripps and Riverside)
o Columbia University Biosphere 2
o The University of New Mexico
o Arizona State University
o Northern Arizona University
o The Desert Research Institute
o The Instituto Mexicano de Tecnologia del Agua
o The Instituto el Medro Ambiente y Desanollo Sustenable del Estado de
Participating government institutions include:
o Los Alamos National Laboratory
o The U.S. Geological Survey
o The Agricultural Research Service
o The Army Corps of Engineers
o The International Boundary and Water Commission
Participating private, non-profit organizations include:
World Laboratory of Lausanne, Switzerland.
Formation of the center involved a rigorous review process. NSF received
more than 280 pre-proposals when it called for ideas for new centers in
1997. Of these, 44 were invited to submit full proposals. After further
review, 16 teams were selected for on-site visits earlier this year. Of
those, five were selected as Science and Technology Centers.
These are potentially ten-year centers. They will be reviewed for additional
funding after five years.
Program guidelines allow funding up to $20 million for each center, but the
final awards are subject to negotiation between NSF and the lead
institutions. In addition, in-kind contributions such as matching funds and
equipment brought to the centers by partners can raise their total value
well beyond the monetary awards.
NSF established the Science and Technology Center program in 1987 in
response to a presidential commitment to fund important fundamental research
activities that also create educational opportunities. The program also is
designed to encourage technology transfer and provide innovative approaches
to interdisciplinary research challenges. These are the first new STC awards
in eight years.
The four other new STC awards will fund a center for nanobiotechnology (led
by Cornell University) that will study the potential for miniature
biotechnologies that have potentially wide applications in health care. A
center for adaptive optics (led by the University of California at Santa
Cruz) will explore how to correct for a range of visual distortions that
will affect fields in astronomy through ophthalmology.
A behavioral neuroscience center (led by Emory University) will attempt to
break new ground in understanding how behavior emerges from the interaction
of the nervous system_s molecular components. A new center for
environmentally responsible solvents and processes (led by the University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill) will study how to use carbon dioxide as an
industrial solvent, which could affect a wide range of industries.