New grant will examine desalination, water reuse as path to sustainable urban water security

The Texas Water Resources Institute is part of a new interdisciplinary research project funded by Texas A&M University’s X-Grants program. Only eight total X-Grant proposals were funded across the university.

Dr. Wendy Jepson, professor of geography in Texas A&M’s Department of Geography in the College of Geosciences is leading the project, "Pathways to Sustainable Urban Water Security: Desalination and Water Reuse in the 21stCentury.”

Texas A&M’s X-Grant program is an initiative of the 10-year, $100 million President’s Excellence Fund. The eight funded interdisciplinary research projects will share $7 million in funding during this first round of the program. Eighty-one faculty members and other researchers from eight colleges and two state agencies of The Texas A&M University System are involved in the projects.

Jepson’s project will be funded by a $1.5 million grant over three years.

Jepson said wastewater reuse and desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater are seen as strategies to address increasing stresses and demands on global water supplies, but there are impediments to their sustainable implementation and negative impacts to consider.

“The technology exists but the question is how can they be integrated into sustainable strategies for urban water security,” she said.

Jepson will work with a team that includes Dr. Christian Brannstrom, College of Geosciences; Gabriel Eckstein, Texas A&M School of Law; Dr. Robert Greer, Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service; Dr. Mark Holtzapple, Texas A&M Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering; Dr. Kent Portney, Texas A&M Bush School; Dr. John Tracy, Texas Water Resources Institute; and Dr. Sierra Woodruff, Texas A&M Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.

“We will examine the global desalination and water reuse corporate and finance sectors, analyze the legal framework for unconventional water production across case study sites, and examine the complex water governance regimes that promote and challenge the transformation of this sector in water-stressed urban regions,” Jepson said.

Tracy said TWRI will work with the project team and collaborators on developing the best approaches to engage water managers and stakeholders in understanding how desalination and water reuse can be used to enhance the resilience of their water supply systems.

Jepson said the project team will compare urban areas in different economic contexts that are rapidly moving toward desalination and wastewater reuse: San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; San Diego, California; Perth, Australia; and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Read the complete College of Geosciences story.

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