U-Idaho program brings science and stakeholders to the table
Researchers from the University of Idaho Waters of the West (WoW) – a revolutionary research, education, and outreach program that blends engineering, science, policy, law, social science and other fields in the management of water resources – are collaborating across disciplines to help Idaho’s communities solve complex water problems.
A team of faculty and students are helping concerned stakeholders in Latah and Whitman counties work together to address the Palouse Basin’s declining groundwater – the main water supply for the area’s combined 50,000 residents. The researchers completed integrated analyses of the scientific, political, economic, environmental and social challenges surrounding the sustainability of the region’s shrinking aquifer.
The team compiled its findings to develop the Palouse Basin Water Information System, used by Palouse Basin communities to make better-informed water management decisions. Researchers also developed a water resources visioning tool to simulate future scenarios for new water supplies and water conservation.
WoW researchers also are engaged in an interdisciplinary study of the Lapwai Creek watershed on the Nez Perce Reservation to help tribal and non-tribal groups create a unified vision to protect the important water resource. In this collaboration, WoW faculty and students developed a community water information system, and also completed an integrated analysis of floodplain design for stream habitat.
Additionally, law professor Barbara Cosens, who heads the legal facet of WoW, has been a driving force behind The Universities Consortium on Columbia Basin Governance. The consortium is a group of representatives from six Northwest universities in the United States and Canada focused on the potential implications of the upcoming review of the Columbia River Treaty, an agreement established in 1964 between the United States and Canada for joint benefit sharing on hydropower development and flood control in the Columbia River Basin.
The consortium initiates a series of annual symposia, attended by stakeholders, researchers and decision-makers from both countries, with the aim of facilitating a transboundary dialogue on the future governance of the Columbia River Basin.
“Our goal is to facilitate cross-border dialogue and to offer a forum to explore options and avenues for mutual benefits within the basin,” Cosens says.