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In Arivaca, Arizona, groundwater isotope measurements (stable O and H, tritium, and carbon-14) were made in conjunction with water level measurements and climate data. Recharge is predominantly young (post-1950) and is mainly from summer monsoon precipitation. Following a five-month period of unusually low δ18O and δ2H in precipitation in 2014-2015, corresponding shift in groundwater δ18O and δ2H was observed only at a site with recently built gabions. Water levels near the basin outlet increase in summer following periods of high storm frequency. Water levels also rebound in winter, possibly because of cessation of transpiration. The young groundwater is vulnerable to climate change, e.g., to protracted periods with summers that are drier or hotter than normal. Rapid assessment of groundwater and its connection to climate can provide valuable information to local water managers and citizens for whom more expensive studies are not feasible. Such assessments, based on relatively inexpensive isotope analyses and groundwater level data collected by volunteers, engage the community in management of its water resources. In Arivaca, the community responded to the results of the assessment with heightened interest in managing their water for sustainability and the construction of gabions to increase recharge from stormwater.
Freshwater systems worldwide are increasingly facing complex environmental issues. In the Laurentian Great Lakes region, harmful algal blooms are one example spanning agriculture, municipal drinking water, science and monitoring, water quality, and human health. Addressing these challenges and working across stakeholder interests requires sound science and additional skills that are not necessarily taught to graduate students in the apprentice research model. Effective stakeholder engagement and science communication are two areas consistent with emphases on broader impacts from the National Science Foundation, information and dissemination of the National Institutes of Health, and community engagement of the National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The lack of training in these areas creates a gap for outreach, engagement, and science communication training to help enable researchers to translate important science to influential stakeholders, policy makers, and members of the public. To address this gap, we held a Community-Engaged Scholarship Workshop for graduate students and early career faculty. The workshop used an established community-engagement framework and was tailored to address the complex environmental issue of harmful algal blooms. It addressed four community-engagement competencies, including community-engaged partnerships, community-engaged teaching and learning, community-engaged research, and science communications. Here, we report evaluation results on changes in these four competencies and participant satisfaction. We conclude with a discussion of potential improvements and next steps for those seeking to host similar community-engaged trainings.
Cesspools as onsite sewage disposal systems (OSDS) are widespread in the Hawaiian Islands and of concern due to their lack of primary treatment and direct discharge of pathogens and nutrients into groundwater. Approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawai‘i release nearly 55 million gallons per day (mgd) of sewage into the ground. Here, we review the status of wastewater pollution, with an emphasis on cesspools, and associated impacts to water resources, nearshore ecosystems, and human health. We present evidence supporting the creation of a cesspool conversion plan, highlighting the need to upgrade cesspools. Knowledge gaps in areas such as hydraulic/hydrologic modeling and technological limitations in identifying specific wastewater sources present barriers to addressing cesspool challenges. We show many of these constraints can be diminished. For example, limitations in identifying specific sources from wastewater indicators using %N and δ15N can be reduced with available land-use information and potential pollution sources to clarify concentration and isotopic data. Resource management presents many challenges, including recognition of diverse societal views and values. To overcome discrepancies in available data, and varying societal values, the use of transparent, adaptable framework methods such as “structured decision making” offers approaches for problem solving. Such frameworks are consistent with a holistic management approach to OSDS that couple the natural and social sciences in identifying and addressing barriers to reduce negative impacts. Maintaining momentum through adoption of clearly articulated short-, medium-, and long-term achievement benchmarks associated with such a management approach is recommended.
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