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UA Engineering Researchers Help Tucson Plan for Drier Days Ahead

New designs for water supply improve quality, use less energy.

With water resources dwindling as the population continues to rise, many communities in the desert southwest are proactively seeking to make the tough choices now, so they can avoid more drastic measures in the future. The communities are seeking help from scientists and engineers, such as University of Arizona civil engineer Kevin Lansey.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Lansey and his colleagues are working to redesign Tucson's water supply infrastructure to help government planners and facility managers meet the growing water demands, while using less energy and improving water quality. Lansey's research group is developing computer models that integrate water and wastewater infrastructures, and can evaluate various system configurations in the face of complex, competing objectives and uncertainty.

"Kevin Lansey's research is in an area that is vital for the future of our nation. We call this the water-energy-food nexus. Climate change is putting immense pressure on this triad of resources, which are 'must haves' for society," says Bruce Hamilton, a program director who works with the NSF Engineering Directorate's Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation.

The work in this episode was supported by NSF award #0835930, EFRI-RESIN (Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructures): Optimization of conjunctive water supply and reuse systems with distributed treatment for high-growth, water-scarce regions.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer