One of the primary objectives of the Nicholas Institute is the collection of robust and accurate data, and the scientific analysis of that data. The Institute has several projects that focus on such work, including the Internet of Water, an endeavor to share and integrate water data that are used to inform decision-making and improve outcomes for sustainability; the Reservoir series, dedicated to discerning how well U.S. Army Corps of Engineer reservoirs follow guide curves; and a study of hydraulic fracturing that examines potential risks to water and wastewater used throughout each stage of the process.
Environmental Data and Analysis
The water data infrastructure in the United States is antiquated and increasingly inadequate for 21st-century water challenges. While water data have been collected by federal, state, and local agencies for decades, much of this data is not open—meaning discoverable, accessible, and usable. Because of this, we are often unable to answer basic questions about our river basins and aquifers in a timely way.
Water services are essential to the health and well-being of every community, from providing safe, reliable drinking water to removing and treating wastewater to managing the flow of stormwater.
The majority of United States reservoirs were constructed when climate was thought to be unchanging and past precipitation and temperatures were reliable for predicting future conditions.
The Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, convened annually by the Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, serves as a platform for addressing domestic water challenges in the 21st century.
The rapid growth of unconventional oil and gas, also referred to as hydraulic fracturing, transformed the energy landscape. New areas became sites of energy extraction, such as the Marcellus Shale Play in Pennsylvania and the Bakken Play in North Dakota.