The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) has published its latest Annual Report, focusing on accomplishments and project highlights during the 2020 pandemic.
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyday life in 2020, it also changed how TWRI tackled water research and conservation outreach. We began conducting trainings and holding conferences in a remote, online format. Far from just a way to get by in an unprecedented global catastrophe, the changes were surprisingly successful.
With online, remote programs, TWRI saw better, broader participation from stakeholders across our educational programs and events. Because they were not limited by the need to travel, stakeholders “attended” TWRI programs from all over Texas and beyond.
Three of the key successes of TWRI’s pandemic pivot listed in the annual report are the annual Introduction to Watershed Modeling workshop, the first annual Transboundary Groundwater Conference, and the Urban Riparian and Stream Restoration Program trainings and the Urban Riparian Symposium. The pandemic forced all TWRI’s training events to go online, and it did not take long for instructors to notice there were more participants in attendance.
While the pandemic changed some things, it did not change the tidal cycle of research that sees some projects end just as others begin. TWRI saw the long-running Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) preparing for its end in 2020 just as the initial efforts for the new Dallas urban water project — tentatively named Urban Water Innovation and Sustainability Hub, or “Urban WISH” — were beginning.
The Ogallala Water CAP began in 2016 and ran through 2020. The project’s final event, the 2021 Ogallala Aquifer Summit, was originally slated for March 2020. The event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the added 13-month wait time did not slow down the energy of project partners and stakeholders. Participants to this final event left energized to continue the interactive effort to find innovative answers to the needs of and threats to the aquifer, even after the end of the project.
The new Dallas Urban WISH launched on June 1. Urban WISH is a TWRI project of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas. The project is a new opportunity to build the research vision on urban water sustainability, a topic that is critical to the wellbeing of the Dallas Metroplex. Its goal is to be more than simply an interdisciplinary approach to the needs of urban residents, but to approach the science of sustainable urban systems from a convergent perspective.