State Policy Program Focal Areas

Western Water Management

Through a portfolio of strategic collaborations with other organizations, the Nicholas Institute continues to provide leadership on improving the sustainability of water resource management in the United States. In the western United States, we are improving water resource management in Nevada by designing and pilot testing a blueprint for “unbundling” water rights—that is, reforming the prior appropriation system so that shares in water rights can be easily traded, including with environmental stakeholders, and so that water resources can be managed sustainably for the benefit of all rights holders and the environment. 

Environmental Justice

With the Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is working on community-building projects. One in Durham is specifically designed to enhance communities’ abilities to incorporate principles of environmental justice into planning for new environmental amenities and mitigating existing environmental hazards while avoiding potential unintended social and economic consequences by leveraging and building upon existing community capital.

Water Quality

States and local governments across the country are struggling to develop new strategies to address nutrient pollution and other water quality challenges. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions has been a resource for local governments, state agencies, and other stakeholders to help design cost-effective policies and practices to protect and restore water quality in state watersheds.

Accounting for the Value of Green Infrastructure

Water utilities across the country are increasingly turning to green infrastructure to help manage storm water and waste water. Green infrastructure can include a range of natural environments, such as forests, riparian buffers, and green space, as well as human‐built infrastructure such as constructed wetlands, rain gardens, and green roofs. Current accounting standards do not provide a way for water utilities to account for the benefits provided by these “green assets,” so water utilities can’t easily demonstrate the full savings they provide. The Nicholas Institute's State Policy Program seeks to develop alternate accounting approaches to make the value of green infrastructure visible and easily understood by multiple stakeholders.