The Center for Watershed Science and Management, in partnership with its many collaborators, both on- and off-campus, conducts research that develops solutions to society’s most pressing challenges in areas involving water quality and quantity. The objective of this Center is ensuring that global water resources are managed in a manner that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. Current projects involve investigations in a range of areas, including:
- Developing innovative strategies and institutions to improve regional water supply management (particularly in the Southeastern U.S.);
- Evaluating drought risk and its financial implications in areas such as urban water supply, hydropower and inland navigation;
- Characterizing and adapting water resource management in the face of climate-related uncertainty;
- Exploring connections between water and energy, with particular interests in renewable energy (hydropower, biofuels, wind);
- Understanding and mitigating the impacts of urban storm water and other non-point sources; and
- Identifying linkages between global cycles for water, carbon and nitrogen.
All of this research is targeted toward improving society’s ability to understand and manage its most precious resource.
Center Focus Areas
Water and Energy Connection
As the world continues to experience increased demands for water and energy there is a growing understanding of how closely intertwined these two critical components are. Providing and distributing clean water requires significant energy and production of energy is a water intensive process. Water and energy are essential to sustainability and economic development and yet both face growing constraints and, consequently, require innovative approaches to addressing future needs. Research at the interface of water and energy involves significant interdisciplinary expertise in the areas of hydrological and power system modeling, economics and finance. Some examples of that research include:
- lowering the water and carbon intensity of energy production and use;
- identifying water scarcity risks and developing strategies to mitigate that risk; and
- understanding the tradeoffs associated with greater integration of renewables in the nation’s energy portfolio.
UNC and Institute researchers have the unique combination of skills and focal interests to develop integrated strategies and find solutions to these critical environmental challenges.
Environmental Financial Risk
Environmental uncertainty poses a growing number of financial risks on society, with droughts, floods, extreme temperatures and violent storms imposing global costs that approach $500 billion a year. Financial instruments, such as index insurance or hedging contracts, can be used to mitigate economic losses from events, such as droughts and hurricanes. With a more advanced understanding of the environmental conditions and factors that give rise to these risks, opportunities abound to develop more innovative contract structures for a range of applications.
Research and developing tools for use in analyzing environmental financial risk requires interdisciplinary expertise in the areas of environmental modeling, economics and finance. Research is underway to identify and characterize financial risks linked to environmental events and transfer this work into practical application through relationships with the financial risk management community. UNC and Institute researchers are at the forefront of this emerging field that provides great potential for academic scholarship as well as significant application for a number of industries.