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Latest Publications


The Value of Water Information: Overcoming the Global Data Drought

Authors: Albert Cho, Alex Fischer, Martin Doyle, Marc Levy, Paola Kim-Blanco, and Randolf Webb

This paper is a call to action for data users, data providers, and global decision makers concerned about water resources, climate resilience, and sustainable development. It provides an overview of hydrological monitoring systems and explains the importance of public water data to national governance, resource management, planning, and efforts to achieve global objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals. 


A Spatially-Resolved Inventory Analysis of the Water Consumed by the Coal-to-Gas Transition of Pennsylvania

Authors: Sarah Jordaan, Lauren Patterson, Laura Diaz Anadon

In the Journal of Cleaner Production, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Lauren Patterson and her co-authors look at changes in water consumption related to transitions from coal to natural gas in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2012. The study provides the first comprehensive representation of changing water consumption patterns associated with the state’s coal-to-gas transition at a watershed level for both extraction of the resources to the generation of electricity with coal and natural gas.


The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers

Authors: Martin Doyle

America has more than 250,000 rivers, coursing over more than 3 million miles and serving as integral trade routes, borders, passageways, sewers, and sinks. Over the years, based on our shifting needs and values, we have harnessed their power with waterwheels and dams, straightened them for ships, drained them with irrigation canals, set them on fire, and even attempted to restore them. This environmental history tells the story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west. Along the way, it explores how rivers have often been the source of arguments at the heart of the American experiment―over federalism, sovereignty and property rights, taxation, regulation, conservation, and development.  


Water Stress from High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Potentially Threatens Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Arkansas, United States

Authors: Sally Entrekin , Anne Trainor, James Saiers, Lauren Patterson, Kelly Maloney, Joseph Fargione, Joseph Kiesecker, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Katherine Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Jean-Philippe Nicot, and Joseph N. Ryan

Demand for high-volume, short duration water withdrawals could create water stress to aquatic organisms in the Fayetteville Shale streams of Arkansas sourced for hydraulic fracturing fluids this article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests. Authors estimate potential water stress using permitted water withdrawal volumes and actual water withdrawals compared to monthly median, low, and high streamflows. Findings indicate that freshwater usage for hydraulic fracturing could potentially affect aquatic organisms in 7-51 percent of the catchments depending on the month. If 100 percent of wastewater was recycled, the potential impact drops. Authors suggest that improved monitoring and access to water withdrawal and streamflow data are needed to ensure protection of streams not only as sources of drinking water, but aquatic habitats.


Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs

Authors: Lauren Patterson, Martin Doyle, and Samantha Kuzma

In the United States, our water data infrastructure does not allow us to consistently and quickly answer the most basic questions about our water system’s quantity, quality, and use. This report describes the challenges and opportunities of integrating U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 36 districts’ historic reservoir data and management operations. A companion tool to visualize data as well as the data files related to this report are available to view and download. Research by the authors to identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets of Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association


A Nationwide Analysis of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Performance in Meeting Operational Targets

Author(s): Lauren Patterson and Martin Doyle

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates reservoirs across the United States. Most (89 percent) of the reservoirs were constructed prior to 1980, and many have experienced changes in environmental conditions such as climate and sediment yield and societal conditions such as water and energy demand. These changes may challenge the potential for reservoirs to meet their operational targets and management goals. To identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets, this analysis published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association collected Army Corps reservoir targets and historic daily reservoir data for 233 reservoirs. This work provides a framework to identify reservoir performance in relation to management goals, a necessary step for moving toward adaptive management under changing conditions. Individual reservoir analyses are accessible through an interactive data visualization tool. Companion research by the authors on Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the report, Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs.


The Future of Groundwater

Authors: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Aspen Institute

The Future of Groundwater summarizes the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum discussions of May-June 2017, offering various approaches to groundwater sustainability. A partnership between The Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the forum focused on exploring the present condition of groundwater, the evolution of that condition, and opportunities for transitioning to more sustainable uses of groundwater resources. The consensus was that groundwater needs to be sustainably developed, meaning groundwater use must be balanced among economic development, environmental health, and quality-of-life needs in a way that allows our children and grandchildren to enjoy.


Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

The health, development, and environment sectors increasingly realize that they cannot achieve their respective goals by acting in isolation. Yet, as they pivot to act collectively, they face challenges in finding and interpreting evidence on sectoral interrelationships, and thus in developing effective evidence-based responses. Each sector already uses some form of evidence-based research, design, and action planning, but methods vary, and ideas about the strength of evidence differ, creating stumbling blocks in the way of cross-sector impact. A new initiative, called the Bridge Collaborative, sets out to spark cross-sector problem solving by developing common approaches that the three sectors could agree to and use. The collaborative has focused on two linked areas of practice that could unlock cross sector collaboration: results chains and evaluation of supporting evidence. This document captures a set of principles identified and used by the collaborative, along with detailed guidance for creating comparable results chains across sectors and evaluating evidence from multiple disciplines in common terms. 


A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Barbara J. Merz, Cindy Huang, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

Ongoing economic, technological, and demographic shifts are altering the nature of today’s major, global issues and challenging us to rethink our past and current approaches to solving them. As our planet becomes more populated and prosperous, the demand for finite resources—such as water, energy, and food—are increasing rapidly. These trends escalate the urgency to find new ways of addressing persistent and growing challenges. But current research and policy systems inhibit integrated approaches to problem solving. Too often, the health, environment, and development sectors work independently setting narrowly defined objectives and failing to consider consequences outside of their own sector. A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders and a companion paper Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation are aimed at increasing cross-sectoral focused on shared evidence.


Estimating the Value of Public Water Data

Author(s): John Gardner, Martin Doyle, and Lauren Patterson

Public water data, such as river flow from stream gauges or precipitation from weather satellites, produce broad benefits at a cost to the general public. This paper presents a review of the academic literature on the costs and benefits of government investments in public water data. On the basis of 21 studies quantifying the costs and benefits of public water quantity data, it appears that the median benefit-cost ratio across different economic sectors and geographic regions is 4:1. But a great deal of uncertainty attends this number; very few studies empirically quantify or monetize the costs, the benefits, or both of water information with sound economic methods, and no studies have quantified the value of water quality information. This review is part of an ongoing effort by the Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and the Aspen Institute to develop the foundations of an Internet of Water by quantifying the potential value of open and integrated public water data.

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