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Collaborative Research: Modeling and Analyzing the Use, Efficiency, Value and Governance of Water as a Material in the Great Lakes Region Through an Integrated Approach

Principle Investigator: Alex Mayer
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Co-PIs: James Mihelcic
David Watkins
Qiong (Jane) Zhang
Award Amount: $1,078,322
Project Duration: 09/2007– 08/2012
MTU Reference Code: 070215

Project Summary

It is accepted that water is at the foundation of our economic, societal and environmental well-being and it is well known that nearly every product in global commerce is dependent on water for its production and delivery to the marketplace. However, water traditionally has not been considered a material characterized by analyses to quantify flows and stocks. This leads to undervaluing of water as a finite resource, an oversight that could lead to even greater water shortages as a result of increasing pressures as well as poorly-informed decision-making by water users and policymakers. The objective of the proposed project is to determine, through integrated physical and economic models and under various scenarios of population growth, climate change, land use, and emissions, the impact of direct and indirect drivers on water quality, quantity, and availability in the Great Lakes region, with a particular emphasis on:

  • Quantifying the stocks and flows of fresh water,
  • Analyzing the underlying factors affecting water use and allocation decisions, and
  • Developing cost frameworks for capturing the value of having a specific amount of water available at a given purity, time, and location.
  • The Great Lakes region is chosen due to its large volume of available freshwater (but low rate of replacement), high economic impact, complex governance issues including an international border, and increasing competition for water allocation among industrial, agricultural, municipal, recreational, and ecosystem needs, as well as existing and future threats of water quality deterioration.