Water and society as a complex system

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Dr. Lilian Alessa and her team at the Resilience and Adaptive Management Group at UAA have been awarded a large NSF grant to study the sustainability of water and society as a complex system. Water resource issues are moving to the forefront of concerns both in Alaska and around the world.

This project, totaling around $1 million, will provide empirical evidence of successful strategies for adaptation to rapid changes in water resources by partnering with communities in Russia and Alaska, ranging from urban to rural. It will examine the actions that individuals, networks and institutions took following acute catastrophic events resulting in the loss of municipal water supplies as well as document rapidly disappearing "water wisdom" among elderly arctic residents of diverse ethnicities. The work is based on a phenomenon Alessa detected in previous, NSF-funded work: the fact that water technologies resulted in a distancing of the user from the resource so that decision-making was significantly affected. This most recent project will build on cutting edge water research being developed by the RAM Group, including the recently released Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability Index (AWRVI) which has been nationally and internationally recognized. "We're anticipating that, with this project and the accumulated knowledge of our other work, we will be able to develop recommendations for maintaining resilient communities," says Alessa. The project also involves researchers from the Institute of Northern Engineering at UAF where Alessa is affiliate faculty.

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