Waters of the West (WoW) is leading the way through a sophisticated strategy that considers an entire water basin and offers long-term solutions found at the intersections of law, science, economics, community dynamics, engineering, and more - reflecting the many dimesions of a water basin.
Faculty in Water Resources are advancing an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the management of water systems. That approach assimilates the economic, environmental, and social characteristics of a water basin or watershed in order to define both the problem and solutions. It reflect the needs and desires of the community; laws which often cross jurisdictional boundaries; economic development plans; the science associated with the basin or watershed; financial considerations, and more. Faculty and student teams have focused their analyses on the Palouse Basin and Lapwai Creek watershed during the past three years. These teams include basin stakeholders, a vital group charged with making the water resource management decisions based on the many options and consequences noted from the analyses.
Palouse Basin Project
The Palouse Basin study is led by Fritz Fiedler, PhD, PE, a faculty member in civil engineering. A faculty and student team is working to address declining water supplies in a non-renewable aquifer that supplies water to the municipalities across the ID-WA border and two universities in the basin. Activities include working with basin public works managers and scientists to develop a systems model to help understand the relationship between decisions and consequences to water supply in such a complex system. That effort has resulted in the creation of a Water Resources Visioning Tool.
Lapwai Watershed Project
A faculty team led by Barbara Cosens, professor in the College of Law, is conducting a research project to assess water resource issues in the Lapwai Creek watershed in Idaho, including degraded spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and salmon and floodplain management. The project will help the Nez Perce indian tribe and private landowners with addressing challenges and creating opportunities for collaborative planning in the watershed.
This project involves the development of a systems model of the impacts of irrigated agriculture in the Eastern Snake River Plain on hydropower generation in the Snake River system. The Eastern Snake River Plain is especially important due to the high elevation (large potential hydropower benefit) and the intense water use by irrigated agriculture.
Columbia Basin Project
Faculty are working with scientists at other major universities and stakeholders (including Canada) on shared governance of the basin. WoW faculty submitted a proposal for an NSF IGERT (Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Traineeship). This program would fund Ph.D. students. The research aspect of the proposed program will use the Columbia River Basin as its natural laboratory, with a focus on possible modifications to the 1964 treaty governing transboundary hydropower production and flood control in the U.S. and Canada.
Rather than develop a hard-copy report, WoW produces basin-specific web sites. The first of these sites, called the Community Water Information System, is for the Palouse Basin. Go to the site.