Conservation Matters March 2016

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Two Texas A&M-led projects selected as part of White House Water Summit

By Kathy Wythe

Two Texas A&M-led projects selected as part of White House Water Summit

Two Texas A&M University System-led projects were recently highlighted as part of the White House Water Summit held on March 22 — World Water Day.

The university system’s Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Initiative and the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, a collaboration between Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering and the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), were featured as part of a select group of projects announced in fact sheets and published proceedings.

The summit included presentations, panel discussions and other activities to spotlight “the importance of cross-cutting, creative solutions to solving the water problems of today,” according to a White House news release. The Texas A&M projects were two of the 150 selected from hundreds of submissions to be featured at the summit and in the White House’s “Commitments To Action On Building A Sustainable Water Future” report.

Dr. Rabi H. Mohtar, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station endowed professor in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments at Texas A&M, leads the WEF Nexus initiative.

“Our WEF Nexus Initiative links science to policy, utilizes holistic approaches and integrative modeling for sustainable water, energy and food resources management,” Mohtar said.

The project brings together more than 250 Texas A&M system scientists with broad expertise from engineering, agriculture, policy, geosciences, behavioral sciences, law and others to help bridge the anticipated water gap in Texas, he said.

WEF Nexus project leaders include Mohtar; Dr. John Tracy, TWRI director; Dr. Kevin Wagner, TWRI deputy director; Dr. Christodoulos Floudas, Texas A&M Energy Institute director; Dr. Jack Baldauf, Texas A&M executive associate dean for research; Dr. Elsa Murano, Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture director; Dr. Bruce McCarl, Texas A&M AgriLife Research economist; and Dr. Arnold Vedlitz, Bush School of Government and Public Service executive associate dean, director institute for science, technology and public policy.

The initiative will use a set of new analytical tools to aid in municipal water management, according to researchers. The tools will initially be deployed in the San Antonio region, with a goal of adapting and expanding their application throughout Texas and nationally.

The initiative will develop a community of practice to identify and respond to national and global opportunities to assist in developing WEF management practices. The group will develop an educational framework to teach stakeholders about using the nexus approach to achieve the development of new analytical tools for planning and management of water resources in municipal areas and to develop a diverse community of WEF Nexus-informed leaders.

Dr. Kelly Brumbelow, associate professor in Texas A&M’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, is project lead on the AMI project. Wagner and Dr. Scott Cummings, professor in Texas A&M’s Department Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, are co-principal investigators, and Dr. Allen Berthold of TWRI is the project’s manager.

The AMI project’s purpose is to provide real-time water usage information directly to water utility customers, empowering them to make more informed decisions about their water consumption. The Texas A&M team is partnering with the cities of Arlington and Round Rock to expand AMI's use and will open the program to other water utility partners to test and refine the system. The system features automatic identification of problems such as leaks or malfunctioning appliances, push-notifications sent to water users, mobile device interfaces, and utility-specific diagnostics and reporting.

Brumbelow said a recent pilot project demonstrated that making consumption data easily available to consumers resulted in water savings of more than 8 percent in winter months and 17 percent in summer months.

“The combination of technology, data and utility-user-university partnerships is key to building a sustainable water future,” he said.

Another project of which Texas A&M is a collaborator is led by Oklahoma State University (OSU), in collaboration with Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group recently initiated a new project promoting the use of advanced sensor-based technologies to improve agricultural water management and minimize irrigation losses, thereby helping conserve declining agricultural water resources in the southern High Plains.

Other Texas projects featured as part of the summit include:

  • The Texas Environmental Flows Initiative, a joint effort of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Harte Research Institute, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • An interactive curriculum that teaches key concepts about water and energy for K-12 students, colleges, industry and the general public, a partnership between Itron and Dr. Michael Webber at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin
  • A National Flood Model that enhances flood forecasting for the nation, an effort of Esri and KISTERS North America, Inc., in collaboration with the Center for Research in Water Resources at UT Austin and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • A Water Technology Incubator to accelerate the development of innovative water startups, launched by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), part of the IC2 Institute at UT Austin
  • Regional hubs for demonstrating innovative approaches for water reuse, brackish desalination and aquifer recharge in rural communities, optimization of water systems and smart irrigation, a project of AccelerateH2O, in partnership with ATI Water and elequa
  • A gathering of data and conduction of analysis to help 50 households in Houston and Austin understand the connection between their water and energy use, a partnership of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Pecan Street, Inc. In addition, EDF will work with UT Austin, UT San Antonio, and the University of California, Davis to help water providers of three to five major Texas cities better manage the energy use embedded in their water systems, with an additional one or two states to be announced later this year

Information for this story was gathered from several sources, including a Texas A&M AgriLife Today release and the White House Water Summit release.

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