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Steven M. Gorelick is the Cyrus F. Tolman Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University (on the faculty since 1988) and a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. He directs the Global Freshwater Initiative with past and active projects in India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Jordan. Dr. Gorelick has published extensively in the areas of groundwater management, water security, water resources vulnerability in developing regions, optimal remediation design, hydrogeophysics, ecohydrology, and global oil supply and demand.
Innovative policies and governance forms are needed to address competition for scarce resources in stressed urban food-water-energy systems. The FUSE consortium adopts an innovative two-stage Living Lab approach in which stakeholders: 1) produce solutions for future urban-FWEs challenges, 2) engage in participatory model building, and 3) examine the merits of proposed solutions. Detailed system models will quantify connections and feedbacks among users, producers, distribution mechanisms, and resources. The FUSE approach will be applied to Amman, Jordan and Pune, India: growing metropolitan regions each containing approximately five million people, intermittent freshwater supplies, and significant competition with agriculture for water and energy.Our interdisciplinary team involves natural and social scientists from the United States, Germany, and Austria.
In arid regions throughout the world, water system security is at a tipping point due to a confluence of drivers that include severely limited water supplies, rapid population growth and demographic shifts, climate change and variability, transboundary competition for shared freshwater resources, and institutional dysfunction. The overarching challenge is to sustain the human-natural system in the presence of rapid environmental and socioeconomic change. This interdisciplinary effort is aimed at developing a new approach to evaluate policies to enhance sustainability of freshwater resource systems. Our research is focused on Jordan, which is one of the ten water poorest countries in the world.Intellectual Merit :Past policy evaluation modeling efforts to identify effective interventions in stressed water systems have been limited. Notably, such models have largely ignored institutional complexity in management decision-making with results divorced from reality. Our work will adopt a multi-agent modeling framework to allow for the incorporation of institutional complexity in evaluation of policy instruments aimed at improving water security in Jordan. The model will employ a modular approach, integrating biophysical modules that simulate natural and engineered phenomena (e.g., groundwater-surface water flow, reservoir storage, network routing, salt balance, and crop yield) with human modules that represent behavior at multiple scales of decision making. The human modules in turn will adopt a multi-agent simulation approach, defining agents as autonomous decision makers at the government, administrative, organizational, and user levels. Our ultimate goal is to construct a suite of policy intervention scenarios that will form the basis for analysis of freshwater sustainability.Broader Impacts :Scientific Impacts: Through application of the integrated multi-agent system modeling framework for policy analysis in Jordan, we will identify innovative policy solutions for a vulnerable water system that has exhausted traditional supply sources. This approach and the merit of policy interventions will have ramifications for the Middle East and other water stressed areas throughout the world. We will produce a body of literature on water security in vulnerableregions. Publications will span interdisciplinary interests and will evolve naturally from interactions of our research team through project task and integrated model development. Through its research, training, and networking, dissemination, outreach activities, the project will strengthen the human and institutional capacity of the water sector in Jordan. The scholarly work produced will advance fields ranging from water policy analysis to risk management to coupled natural and human systems modeling in a multi-agent analysis context.
The 6000 km2 Peace-Athabasca Delta (“Delta”) in northeastern Alberta, Canada, is a Ramsar Convention Wetland and UNESCO World Heritage Site (“in Danger” status pending) where hydropower development and climate change are creating ecological impacts through desiccation and reduction in Delta shoreline habitat. This EVP would focus on ecohydrologic changes and mitigation and adaptation options to advance the field using interdisciplinary technology by combining, for the first time, satellite remote sensing and hydrologic simulation with population genetics, demographic analysis and individual-based population modeling of Ondatra zibethicus (muskrat), an ecological indicator species native to the Delta. The project will build a conceptual and quantitative modeling framework linking climate change, upstream water demand, and hydrologic change in the floodplain to muskrat population dynamics with the objective of exploring the impacts of these stressors on this ecosystem. We explicitly account for cultural and humanistic influences and commit to effective communication with the regional subsistence community that depends on muskrat for food and income. Our modeling framework could serve as the basis for improved stewardship and sustainable development upstream of stressed freshwater deltaic, coastal and lake systems worldwide affected by climate change, providing a predictive tool to quantify population changes of animals relevant to regional subsistence food security and commercial trapping.
Fort Chipowan, Canada
Arsenic contamination of groundwater is of enormous consequence to more than 700 million people inhabiting Southeast Asia. We have obtained a comprehensive, unique, unanalyzed dataset consisting of >42,000 measurements from South Vietnam showing widespread contamination (>1000 sq km) in deep aquifers (>200m) of the Mekong Delta that are used extensively for water supply. Based on preliminary aquifer modeling and land subsidence estimates, we hypothesize a previously unrecognized deep arsenic source mechanism: water expelled from storage during clay compaction resulting from exploitation of surrounding deep aquifers. Hypotheses explored will be a) shallow arsenic is being transported to depths by deep pumping wells (which preliminarily appears unlikely), or b) deep clay layers have harbored dissolved arsenic constituents for millions of years (since Pliocene-Miocene times) and began expelling this arsenic-rich water once the deep aquifers were heavily pumped, or c) arsenic mobilizing solutes are expelled from the clay during compaction. The deep clay expulsion mechanism (b) or (c) is novel and important. Our effort would combine hydrogeologic, geochemical, and land deformation analyses based on satellite radar imagery (InSAR) to explore the relationship between deep arsenic contamination and aquifer – confining bed behavior. We also would analyze newly obtained shallow clay cores for pore water chemistry, mineralogy, and surface chemistry. A 3D groundwater flow/contaminant transport model, including compaction, delayed drainage, and land subsidence would be constructed based on existing geologic information, hydraulic property, head, and groundwater extraction data. This model would help understand historical arsenic contamination and future scenarios resulting from deep groundwater use and would contribute to geochemistry, hydrogeology, and water management.Broader Impacts. This new contamination mechanism may be fundamental to understanding arsenic occurrence in deep aquifer systems. In addition, our new conceptual model is applicable to other problem areas where clay compaction releases other dissolved contaminants or sources of dissolved carbon that can mobilize sequestered hazardous substances. Our investigation will have immediate implications for water resources development and human health in the arsenic affected basins of Southeast Asia where some regions of planned deep aquifer exploitation may unknowingly become exposed to deep-source arsenic. In terms of methods, our use of satellite radar (InSAR) to detect land deformation would, for the first time, serve as a reconnaissance tool to identify areas where clay compaction and consequent arsenic release may be occurring. The link between subsidence and arsenic release would be potentially transformative.
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Western U.S. water law historically prioritized offstream development of water resources, neglecting ecosystems, Native American communities, and economic efficiency. Under the banner of environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable water management, doctoral student Philip Womble working with Professors Gorelick in Earth System Science and Professor Thompson in the Law School on research to address these shortcomings. Because water rights in the western U.S. historically only existed for diversionary uses, the entire flow of many rivers has been claimed for offstream uses. With ecosystems left out of the equation, major waterways routinely run dry, or virtually dry, during substantial portions of the year. Legal reforms, however, now allow non-consumptive water rights that protect water for ecosystems. Water marketing—transferring older, higher priority rights to environmental use—has emerged as a leading solution to restore water for ecosystems. From 2003-12, total expenditures on environmental water rights across the western U.S. exceeded $560 million, and environmental water marketing represented 40% of the total water volume traded. Agencies and organizations, however, still largely acquire environmental water rights opportunistically. While the water rights they buy often constitute individual conservation priorities, they are likely suboptimal collectively. Womble’s doctoral research develops new conservation planning tools and strategies to help agencies and organizations optimize ecological outcomes of environmental water rights acquisitions in the Upper Colorado River Basin. He is developing an integrated hydro-economic-legal computational modeling framework. The modeling framework optimizes ecological outcomes provided by portfolios of environmental water rights acquisitions (e.g., purchases, leases) attainable with realistic budget constraints based on daily hydrologic simulations over multiple decades.
Colorado River, Colorado
Research by E-IPER doctoral student, Veena Srinivasan, working with Professor Gorelick in Earth System Science and Professor Goulder in Economics, studied an approach to reduce vulnerability of freshwater supply in Chennai, India. During a year-long drought in 2003-2004, Chennai's piped supply system failed to deliver water to the 4.5 million people in the city. This study considered how Chennai could become less vulnerable by developing rooftop rainwater harvesting, and showed that such a system could be tremendously valuable. The project resulted in a series of publications the discuss various aspects of Dr. Srinivasan's doctoral work.
Research<br/>As a hydrogeologist and hydrologist, my research involves the study of water resources and water security with emphasis on freshwater. Using lab and field data, our aim is to develop an understanding of fundamental aspects of the transport of water and contaminants, and to investigate regional water resources systems. We have developed simulation-based planning tools to aid in sustainable agricultural and urban water management in the US, Mexico, India, and Jordan. With my colleagues, we have initiated the Global Freshwater Initiative, which studies water resources vulnerability problems throughout the world. During the past 15 years, our field investigations have focused on the interactions between groundwater and patterns of vegetation in studies of both meadow and salt-marsh ecohydrology. Scales of physical processes of interest extend from the domain of small pores to vast regional subsurface flow environments. Although driven by observations and data, we develop conceptual and quantitative models to rigorously understand physical processes, make predictions, and explore the impacts of new water management policies, such as taxes, quota, and markets. Such models enhance our understanding of groundwater flow behavior and provide the means to better manage water resources.<br/><br/>Teaching<br/>I teach courses for graduate and undergraduate students involving principles and methods used in physical and contaminant hydrogeology. In addition, I run a seminar series that exposes students to a variety of multidisciplinary topics involving hydrology.<br/><br/>Professional Activities<br/>2020-2021 von Humboldt Fellow -Germany, 2019-2020 Fulbright Fellow - Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation, Australian-American Program, 2016 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2014 Best Paper in Environmental Research Letters in 2014 (Padowski and Gorelick, (2014), 2013 Editor's Choice Award, Water Resources Research for paper Srinivasan et al., (2012), Member, US National Academy of Engineering (2012), International Fellow, Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR) (2011), New Zealand, Fulbright Senior Scholar (2008-09); Chester C. Keisel Memorial Lecturer, University of Arizona (2008); Best Paper Award in Computers and Geosciences, International Association for Mathematical Geology (2006); fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2005); Stanford representative to the Consortium of Universities for Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences (2005-2008); M. King Hubbert Science Award, NGWA (2004); Ineson Distinguished Lecturer (1998); Fulbright Senior Scholar (1997); O.E. Meinzer Award, GSA (1994) James B. Macelwane medal, AGU (1990); Fellow, GSA (1988) and AGU (1990); Editorial Board, Optimization and Engineering Journal (1990-present); visiting professor, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Ecological Engineering Laboratory (2006); visiting professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, jointly at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (2005); visiting scholar, University of Cambridge, Zoology (2007); visiting scientist, CSIRO, Perth, Australia (2009); Member AGU Water and Society Technical Committee (2011-present) visiting professor, University of Western Australia Centre for Ecohydrology (2012); visiting professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich (2013, 2019), Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation, Australian-American Program (2019-2020).