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EPA awards nearly $2 million to advance water management and security

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EPA water management research award
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Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced nearly $2 million in research funding to the University of California, Berkeley to develop a cost-benefit tool to support enhanced aquifer recharge (EAR) as a viable, safe, and cost-effective water management strategy. EAR is the practice of using excess surface water to intentionally replenish and supplement existing groundwater supplies for storage and potential reuse.

“Given that changing climate is leading to intensified droughts, as evident this summer in communities throughout the U.S., we need to identify effective and economically feasible solutions to enhance the sustainability of our water supplies,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The research announced today will provide decision makers the knowledge needed to address groundwater depletion, support communities, and advance water availability.”

Using too much groundwater can lead to many issues that impact water quality and water availability. In many locations, EAR can be a cost-effective way to increase water resource resiliency to mitigate the impacts of drought exacerbated by climate change and can also provide ways to combat saltwater intrusion near coastal communities, among other benefits. However, groundwater removal is outpacing the rate of EAR implementation, and additional research is needed to address economic, technological, and other factors that affect the ability to implement EAR projects.

With this Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grant, investigators at the University of California, Berkeley will conduct research using a life-cycle view of EAR which includes three pillars of decision making for EAR implementation: geochemical and physical considerations; legal and institutional considerations; and cost-benefit analysis and life-cycle assessment. The project will culminate in the creation of an EAR Lifecycle Map that can be used by water managers and other decision-makers to assess the costs and benefits of implementing their EAR projects.

“The goal of this effort will be to lower barriers to widespread adoption of recharge at a national scale. Our interdisciplinary team is thrilled about the opportunity to work towards greater adoption of recharge as an element of water security,” said Michael Kiparsky, Water Program Director at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law. “Our approach exemplifies our commitment to facilitating on-the-ground impact and implementation, and builds directly on the experience or our team, and on engagement with experts and stakeholders around the country.” 

Project Details

Award: $1,999,998

Project Title: A Knowledge-to-Implementation Framework for Enhanced Aquifer Recharge

Principal Investigator: Michael Kiparsky

Study Locations: University of California (UC) Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Hastings

This project aims to contribute to the nation’s water-related human, environmental, and economic well-being by removing barriers, developing tools, and providing knowledge in service of implementation of Enhanced Aquifer Recharge (EAR). The project will conceptualize a life-cycle view of EAR to encompass three pillars of decision making for EAR: geochemical and physical considerations; legal & institutional considerations; and cost-benefit analysis & life-cycle assessment. The overarching hypothesis is that through strategically combining applied research, decision-support innovations, and public engagement, the team can lower barriers to widespread adoption of EAR and unlock its potential to provide multiple water security benefits. The main output of the project is an “EAR Lifecycle Map,” which integrates and summarizes the results of and interconnections among all research components. It can be used by decision-makers contemplating EAR projects.

View the research abstract for this project.

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