University of Minnesota
Office of the Vice President for Research

Research Advancement homefiller

Convergence Colloquia

Water Supply

The water supply colloquium on February 19, 2016 brought together a wide array of researchers, business owners, advocates, policy makers and many others the U of M and state to hold a focused dialogue about how we can advance the ways that we plan, manage, price, consume and conserve our water resources – anticipating the dynamics of supply and demand from rural and recreational areas, to cities and industry.

Read the report: Water Supply

Serendipity grants awarded

A Water Use Portal for Water Users, Municipalities, and the Interested Public

Jeffrey Peterson, Director, Water Resources Center (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Len Kne, Associate Director, U-Spatial (Co-PI), Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Institute on the Environment (Co-PI); Jeffrey Peterson, Director, Water Resources Center (Co-PI)

External Collaborators: Abby Finis, Associate Planner, Great Plains Institute (Co-PI); Phil Muessig, Planning Director, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (Co-PI); Suzanne Rhees, Water Policy Consultant, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Co-PI), Brian Stenquist, Planning Director, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Co-PI); Lanya Ross, Senior Environmental Scientist, Metropolitan Council; Sean Hunt, Water Use Hydrologist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Ruth Hubbard, Director, Minnesota Rural Water Association; Rebecca Otto, State Auditor, Office of the State Auditor

While water resources are still perceived as widely abundant in Minnesota, there are a growing number of locations across the state where water supplies are at risk of overuse and contamination. Many initiatives are underway to address these concerns, however, the fact that groundwater is “below the surface” and not readily visible to the public makes it difficult to recognize the threats to the resource. Using available data and visualization technologies, it will be possible to ‘see’ the location and amount of permitted water use (i.e. public water supply, irrigation, etc.). This information is invaluable in increasing community awareness of water supply issues and helping to prioritize use of groundwater. This would be a unique data resource that could be merged with other spatial datasets and would allow interdisciplinary researchers to shed light on the links between the social, economic, policy, and climate drivers of land use change and groundwater use.

Managing an Invisible Resource: An Investigation of Local Governments’ Capacity to Protect Drinking Water and Groundwater

Mae A. Davenport, Director, Center for Changing Landscapes, Associate Professor, Department of Forest Resources (PI)

External Collaborators: Sharon Pfeifer, Community Assistance Manager, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Co-PI); Tannie Eshenaur, Planning Director, Drinking Water Protection, Minnesota Department of Health; Peggy Knapp, Program Director, Freshwater Society; Craig Johnson, Intergovernmental Relations, League of Minnesota Cities; Steve Huser, Government Relations Specialist, Metro Cities; representative(s) from the Association of Minnesota Counties

This unique partnership will design, administer, and analyze a statewide online survey of Local Government Unit (LGU) staff. Specifically, the study will assess various types of capacities that exist in any community - individual, relational, institutional, and justice - on the topics of groundwater and drinking water. This survey is urgently needed because local implementers charged with protecting groundwater resources are understaffed, lack the necessary knowledge, and are not well supported by local land use decisions or existing ordinances. Minnesota’s Interagency Groundwater and Drinking Water team has determined that a science-based community engagement model is needed to “get a handle” on what city staff and officials know about groundwater quality and quantity issues and what they need to better protect groundwater. Results of this work will be directly applied by both state agencies and The Freshwater Society and the findings should be useful to the League and its city members as groundwater supply becomes more of an issue into the future.

Development of a Public-Private Partnership to Stimulate the Implementation of Innovative Water and Wastewater Treatment Technologies in Minnesota

Paige Novak, Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Raymond Hozalski, Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (Co-PI); Steve Kelley, Senior Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs (Co-PI)

External Collaborators: Timothy Nolan, Sustainable Industrial Development Coordinator, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (Co-PI); Steve Riedel, International Trade Representative, Minnesota Trade Office, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (Co-PI), Bernie Bullert, Water and Wastewater Group Manager, TDKA (Co-PI); Larry Rogacki, Assistant General Manager, Support Services, Environmental Services, Metropolitan Council; Steven Klein, Vice President, Barr Engineering; John Borghesi, Senior Project Manager, CH2M; Greg Harding, Vice President, Industrial & International Sales, Aeration Industries, International, LLC; Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader, Ecolab

Many options exist to treat water and wastewater. Determining the best treatment approach that maximizes contaminant removal for either safe drinking water or wastewater effluent to a receiving stream, while minimizing cost and energy usage, can require expensive pilot studies. This is particularly true for new and innovative technologies, which, as new and/or stricter regulations are imposed on water and wastewater treatment facilities, are likely to be the most cost-effective, low-energy, and sustainable solutions available. Through this Serendipity Grant we propose to explore the development of a public-private partnership that will build a fund that can be used to support pilot studies, for example, through a subscriber model. The results of these pilots will be public and freely shared with other subscribers to advance knowledge of novel treatment technologies within the state. The project will determine design and operation options for the partnership and will create a clear path forward to implementation. Many of the partners on this proposal have coordinated related activities over the past 2-3 years. Drawing on the team’s prior experience across academia, government and the private sector, we would promote promising ideas and technologies in need of an efficient pathway to testing and implementation.

Integrating Equity and Justice Considerations in Organizations Responsible for the Stewardship of Water Resources

Marie Donahue, Assistant Scientist, Natural Capital Project, Institute on the Environment (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Institute on the Environment; Mae Davenport, Associate Professor, Department of Forest Resources; Lewis Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer, Institute on the Environment

External Collaborators: Lark Weller, Water Quality Coordinator, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, National Park Service (Co-PI); Tannie Eshenaur, Planning Director, Drinking Water Protection, Minnesota Department of Health; Raintry Salk, Research Analyst, Regional Parks and Natural Resources Unit, Metropolitan Council; Kara Dennis, Hydrologist, Well Management Program, Minnesota Department of Health

Many organizations are charged with providing access to water resources or delivering water-related services to the public, while others are engaged in research activities that provide guidance and information on how this public good may be more effectively managed. Many of these same organizations are struggling to ensure this access, delivery, and information is equitable. Implicit bias or other barriers in organizational structures and processes may sustain this inequitable outcome and would need to be addressed in order to build a more equitable reality in how we collectively manage water resources. This project seeks to identify the barriers that organizations in Minnesota face in providing equitable access to water resources and services through a series of interviews with individuals affiliated with such organizations. Existing internal and external barriers identified through this research would provide cues for how to enhance equitable service provision.