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CEE Faculty Garner USDA for Water Resource Use Study

HydrologicModelingTeamCEE professors Jon Hathaway, John Schwartz, and Thanos Papanicolaou have received a USDA grant to study the use water resources in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins (TCB). The goal of the study is to provide data to increase the resilience of agricultural production in the region through more efficient water use.

“Nationally, issues associated with water availability will be in the forefront for the
next decade, and UTK will be a leader in this research area developing new practices for better resource management,” says Dr. John Schwartz, CEE Professor and Associate Department Head of Undergraduate Studies.

The initial task will be to develop a range of anticipated climate and land use scenarios for the southeastern U.S. through a review of relevant literature, climate change/water availability projection, and spatially-explicit analyses of existing agricultural operations and management practices. These scenarios will form a baseline that, through modeling, will help determine where water allocation issues arise when shocks, such as droughts, are simulated.

The TCB was chosen as a study area because of the diversity and representation of its agricultural operations and geographies and because of dramatic changes in water use in the area. Extreme events including droughts and floods are of significant concern in the TCB. In spite of the presence of larger water bodies, and extensive water management infrastructure, water as a resource remains a contentious issue, especially in the agriculture sector.

This research will be shared with UT Extension to help in the development of techniques for sustainable water use for area farmers. Additionally, researchers in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will be able to feed the data into other agricultural-based models to see how different scenarios affect crop production and economic issues.

Lastly, this project has impacts for climate change studies. By understanding the potential impact of weather events brought on by climate change, leaders can better plan to address changes.