Water Policy Program Focal Areas

U.S. Water Partnership

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University is a member of the U.S. Water Partnership. Launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on World Water Day 2012, the public-private partnership is designed to share knowledge and leverage resources to find solutions to global water accessibility challenges. The partnership places special emphasis on water challenges in the developing world, a focus of the Nicholas Institute.

The Aspen-Nicholas Institute Water Forum

The 2015 forum is bringing together a select group of data scientists, business, investors, utility, and other thought leaders in a roundtable setting for intentional dialogue on the theme of harnessing big data for water sustainability. The forum will explore how the emergence of large amounts of data in the water sector could be (or should be) transforming our management and delivery of water for the benefit of society.

Water and Investors

Investors are increasingly seeking to understand the risk to their investments due to water scarcity—whether a municipality who may not be able to meet demand or a business whose supply chain may have to reduce production. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is developing a tool that will allow investors to quickly assess the condition of water supply for their investments in the U.S. to help them make informed decisions and to start a conversation with the municipality or companies they invest in regarding how they are addressing water issues.

Environmental Flows

Water withdrawals for drinking water or irrigation, and upstream dam management  can affect how much water is in a river. In a project with state agencies and nonprofits, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is exploring "environmental flows," a new approach to water management. 

Hydraulic Fracturing

Advances in horizontal and hydraulic fracturing technologies have enabled gas companies greater access to shale gas formations deep in the earth, securing a role for natural gas in the nation’s clean energy future. Research by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions looks more closely at water and wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Reservoir Reallocation

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. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is developing a database to compare federal agencies' mandated operations with actual operations, and to determine if current legislation provides sufficient flexibility to quickly respond to changing climates.

Smart Water Grid Technology

Infrastructure to conserve water resources is essential as the population grows and the needs for water increase. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is exploring how a smart grid for water may help address water scarcity. 

Water Quality

Millions in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley are exposed to naturally occurring contaminants such as fluoride and arsenic each year. As part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is studying water quality, in particular the impact of long-term exposure to contaminants such as fluoride, in the region’s groundwater.

Universities and International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Consortium

The Universities and International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Consortium partners with the Water Policy Program at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. It focuses on developing integrated education and research programs to provide the evidence base and training to empower governments and other stakeholders in communities and countries of greatest need toward universal access to safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.