Western Water Network: A Case Study in Water Network Formation
Author: Travis Warziniak, Robert Heinse, Alexander Fernald, Michael Gaffney, Kristiana Hansen, Bret Hess, Lyla Houglum, Ginger Paige, and Qin Zhang,
Increased water scarcity and drought frequency are creating water management challenges for many communities in the western U.S. In response, the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors sponsored a virtual summit in August 2020 to develop a framework for identifying and addressing the most pressing water issues in the western United States (the West). Summit attendees were research scientists, university extension specialists and professionals, and federal/state agency representatives with knowledge and expertise of water management in the West. The summit elicited opinions from 54 experts on pressing water issues and possible methods for addressing them. A follow-on survey of 49 individuals increased the depth and breadth of perspectives collected. Summit and survey results show that water scarcity is a growing concern among water scientists and other experts. Increased water scarcity is leading to overallocated river basins, depleted aquifers, and elevated tensions between water use sectors. Summit and survey participants emphasized the need for increased integration—across research, extension, and education efforts; across the social and physical sciences; across uses (including ecological); and across surface and groundwater systems. These results serve as a sensing of what many of our colleagues believe to be the major western water issues over the next 30 years and, in some cases, possible solutions for addressing them. The expert opinions elicited through the summit and survey informed the creation of the Western Water Network, whose mission is to advance collaborative, proactive, science-based water decision-making that supports dynamic human and natural systems in the West.
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