U of I Water Resources: Integrated Basin Analysis

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IGERT award: 1249400

Waters of the West (WoW), the research and outreach arm of the University of Idaho's Water Resources Program, is leading the way through a sophisticated strategy that considers an entire water basin and offers solutions found at the intersection of law, science, economics, community dynamics, engineering, and more - the many dimensions of a water basin.

Faculty in Water Resources are advancing an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the management of water systems. That approach assimilates the economic, environmental, and social characteristics of a water basin or watershed in order to define both the problem and solutions. It reflect the needs and desires of the community; laws which often cross jurisdictional boundaries; economic development plans; the science associated with the basin or watershed; financial considerations, and more. Faculty and student teams have focused their analyses on the Palouse Basin and Lapwai Creek watershed in recent years. These teams include basin stakeholders, a vital group charged with making the water resource management decisions based on the many options and consequences noted from the analyses.

Palouse Hills (credit: Stephen Penland 2010)

Palouse Basin Project: The Palouse Basin study was initiated in 2006 as part of the Waters of the West initiative. A faculty and student team worked to address declining water supplies in a non-renewable aquifer that supplies water to the municipalities across the ID-WA border and two universities in the basin. Activities included working with basin public works managers and scientists to develop a systems model to help understand the relationship between decisions and consequences to water supply in such a complex system. That effort has resulted in the creation of a Water Resources Visioning Tool.

Lapwai Basin

Lapwai Watershed Project: A faculty team led by Barbara Cosens, professor in the College of Law, is conducting a research project to assess water resource issues in the Lapwai Creek watershed in Idaho, including degraded spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and salmon and floodplain management. The project will help the Nez Perce indian tribe and private landowners with addressing challenges and creating opportunities for collaborative planning in the watershed. A key product of this research is a participatory GIS application for the Lapwai Watershed.

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