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RII Track 1: Water Security in Delaware's Changing Coastal Environment

Kent Messer; Donald Sparks; Yushan Yan; Venugopal Kalavacharla; Holly Michael; Malcolm D'souza
University of Delaware
Start date
End date

Non-technical Description

Many coastal regions of the world have entered a critical period when multiple threats endanger water security, defined as the capacity of a society to safeguard adequate, sustainable quantities of high-quality water. In Delaware, threats to water security relate primarily to water quality rather than quantity, and arise largely due to human behavior, whether from agriculture run-off, household wastes, increased salinity due to the influx of seawater, or degradation of ecological systems from an expanding human footprint. This project aims to understand the major threats to Delaware's water quality and develop technical and policy solutions for meeting the challenges imposed by them. The project's partner institutions - the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College, and Wesley College - propose a jurisdictional network of people, institutions, data, and technologies directed at enhancing water security for human, economic, and ecosystem health. The project's educational and training mission will develop a diverse workforce capable of addressing water security challenges in Delaware and around the world.

Technical Description

This project integrates engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences to predict the often-coupled behavior of water resources and people. Transformative strategies to be used include the application of advanced data analytics, the development and deployment of new sensor technologies, and the use of new techniques and models. The threat assessment research thrust will increase scientific knowledge of salinization mechanisms, salinity effects on nutrient mobility, modes of transport of nutrients across coastal watersheds, and the resulting biogeochemical impacts and ecological stresses. The solution development thrust will obtain behavioral and policy insights needed for the development of effective and socially acceptable solutions. The social dimensions thrust's outputs will include early warning systems, decision-support tools, engagement of stakeholders and partners, and information for the development of evidence-based policies and programs. The project will also establish a crosscutting enabling cores thrust to interact with the other three thrusts by developing inexpensive water quality sensors, microbiome analysis methods, and novel data services and analytics. Education, outreach, workforce development, and diversity programs, along with strong statewide partnerships, are the foundation of all other project activities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
View this project
Project number
Sanitation and Quality Standards