The Colorado River Basin is going through a period of reckoning, and two University of Virginia professors are searching for solutions. Since 2000, the basin has experienced the worst drought in recorded history, impacting water for drinking and agriculture. Julianne Quinn, an environmental systems engineer, and economist Peter Debaere are examining ways to improve water management in the basin to reduce the impacts of drought and facilitate sustainable economic growth.
The project, which received seed funding as a CoLab from UVA’s Environmental Institute, was recently awarded a three-year, $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to expand its work.
Engaging community partners and convening an interdisciplinary team, Quinn and Debaere will make recommendations to stakeholders based on their years of intense research. Their goal is to bring potential solutions regarding water stability and management in a region that is experiencing an extended historic drought that may be the new norm due to climate change-induced aridification.
As one of the most important river systems in the country, the Colorado River Basin supplies drinking water to 40 million people, fuels hydropower resources in eight states, is a crucial resource for 30 Tribal nations, and supports 16 million jobs and $1.4 trillion of the annual U.S. economy.