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Woods Seminar | Harnessing the Digital Era to Advance Integrated Water Resource Management | Newsha Ajami, Stanford

February 4, 2019 - 4:15pm
Y2E2 Building, Room 299


Harnessing the Digital Era to Advance Integrated Water Resource Management

Over the past century, communities have invested heavily in large-scale centralized engineered solutions, such as dams, aqueducts, pipes and pumps, to prevent floods and to enhance water supply reliability and security, fueling unprecedented and sometimes unsustainable socio-economic growth. These infrastructure networks have been designed and governed under the assumption of abundance and stationarity, believing that by harnessing nature we could deliver unlimited amounts of water to various sectors. There was limited accounting for hydroclimatic and human dynamics uncertainties in managing these complex infrastructure systems.

While these traditional systems have worked for most of the past century, they are now under increasing pressure due to intensified climatic variability, aging and degradation, population growth, urbanization, and shifting societal and economic priorities. In response to some of these emerging water challenges, many communities are now considering decentralized and multi-benefit water management solutions such as water recycling and reuse, green infrastructure, groundwater banking, smart water solutions, and demand management measures to combat water scarcity and enhance system-wide resiliency. As these solutions slowly disrupt our infrastructure model, a new generation of decision support tools and hydrologic models are needed which directly incorporate human and environmental complexity in order to more accurately assess water demand and infrastructure needs. This seminar will introduce a portfolio of innovative water management tools that harness new data sources to assess both evolving water demand trends and modern supply regimes. These tools offer a set of holistic solutions that aim to inform the policy and decision making process while addressing the complexity of hydrologic, socio-economic and governance dynamics surrounding water management issues.

Newsha K. Ajami, is the director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University’s Water in the West program. A leading expert in sustainable water resource management, water policy, innovation, and financing, and the water-energy-food nexus, her research throughout the years has been interdisciplinary and impact driven, focusing on the improvement of the science-policy-stakeholder interface by incorporating social and economic measures and effective communication.

Dr. Ajami is a two-term gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. Before joining Stanford, she worked as a senior scholar at the Pacific Institute, and served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee where she worked on various water and energy related legislation. She has published many highly cited peer-reviewed articles, coauthored two books, and contributed opinion pieces to the New York Times, San Jose Mercury and the Sacramento Bee. She was the recipient of the 2005 National Science Foundation award for AMS Science and Policy Colloquium and ICSC-World Laboratory Hydrologic Science and Water Resources Fellowship from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Ajami received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the UC, Irvine, an M.S. in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Tehran Polytechnic.