Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Water Policy - image credit 123rf/ammit

Water Policy

As populations grow and the climate changes, competition for water resources is increasing.

The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability’s Water Policy Program is an interdisciplinary effort focused on utilizing data to inform effective policy changes in how water is understood and managed. These efforts span understanding to increase water-management flexibility for reservoirs under a changing climate and to develop market-based approaches for water allocation.

The program also partners annually to host the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, jointly convened by the Aspen Institute's Energy and Environment Program and Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. The forum serves as a platform for addressing domestic water challenges in the 21st century—from the drought in California to the need for policy solutions that address water trading opportunities—and to develop forward-thinking pathways to improve our water system, including the Internet of Water Coalition.


Internet of Water Coalition

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 Affordability

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. Because much of the United States relies on reservoirs for hydropower, water supply, and protection from floods, it is critical to rethink how to manage reservoirs in a changing world.

Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum

The Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, convened annually by the Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, serves as a platform for addressing domestic water challenges in the 21st century.

Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

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.