Princeton part of $12 million project to set up urban water-sustainability research network

Aug. 11, 2015 2 p.m.

Princeton University researchers will join 14 academic institutions and partners nationwide on a $12 million project to address the challenges that threaten urban water systems in the United States and globally. Funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Colorado State University, the collaboration will establish the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN), which will create technological, institutional and management solutions that help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and better respond to water crises.

The UWIN will build on long-standing programs at Princeton for research and training, as well as the University's recognized expertise in all areas related to water resources, said Elie Bou-Zeid, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Princeton's principal investigator on the project. University programs related to water management include the study of urban rainfall modification, the water-climate nexus in cities, urban flood hazards, and innovative solutions for water and energy conservation in buildings, Bou-Zeid said.

The UWIN also will include Princeton researchers Forrest Meggers, an assistant professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and James Smith, the William and Edna Macaleer Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, and professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. Princeton will receive more than $1 million of the grant funds, and the Princeton Environmental Institute will manage the University's portion of the program.

Water crises such as droughts, shortages and floods are the top global risk to the viability of communities throughout the world. Extreme events and global climate change can have profound impacts on water security, and they inflict enormous costs on societies, governments and economies. Preparing for and responding to these challenges requires technological and management solutions that protect water systems from pressures and enhance their resilience.

The vision of the UWIN is to create a research network for integrated water systems and to cultivate advocates for water-sensitive urban design and resilient cities. The network will establish in the United States six highly connected regional urban water-sustainability hubs that will help densely populated communities transition to sustainable water-resource management. Partnerships with organizations and networks internationally and in the United States will extend the UWIN's reach to more than 100 cities around the world. Partners and collaborators include the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities (NETWERC H2O).

The plan of the UWIN is to produce an Urban Water Sustainability Blueprint that will outline effects and tradeoffs associated with sustainable solutions for cities of all sizes. It also will provide steps and guidance for action based on the collective knowledge gained through the research and collaboration of institutions in the network.

In addition to Princeton and Colorado State, the UWIN consortium includes: Arizona State University; the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York; Florida International University; Howard University; Oregon State University; the University of Arizona; the University of California-Berkeley; the University of California-Riverside; the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; the University of Miami; the University of Oregon; and the University of Pennsylvania.