Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018WV232B

High resolution assessment of economic sector water use, water supply, and water economy – A novel approach for managing West Virginia’s water resources

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,442 Total Non-Federal Funds: $28,884

Principal Investigators: Nicolas Zegre

Abstract: Water is used in virtually every aspect of the economy, yet the reliability of water as a strategic resource is uncertain due competition between users, population growth, economic development, and the uneven distribution of water across time and space. With present day food, energy, and manufacturing systems deeply coupled to water (Food-Energy-Water, FEW), changes in water availability can have profound effects on the economy and the environment. While West Virginia is thought to have an abundance of water, water availability and the role that water plays in the economy is poorly understood. The West Virginia and regional economies are undergoing rapid changes due to the decline of the coal industry, population growth, and growth of the natural gas industry. With changes in economic sectors comes changes to water use that could potentially impact water availability that is required to sustain other water uses (e.g. agriculture, manufacturing) and in-stream ecological function (i.e. environmental flows). The growing awareness among business leaders, decision makers, and the public about the strategic importance of water underscores the need for policies and practices aimed at improving water resources management to ensure an adequate, clean, and reliable supply of water as a critical, stock resource for the economy. Designing practices and policies for strategically developing West Virginia’s water resources requires a detailed understanding of the role that water plays in economy. This will require an integrated, high resolution assessment of water withdrawal, consumption, and supply for diagnosing potential stresses to the water system, as well as quantifying the value of water across economic sectors in order for prioritizing water use for maximum benefit for West Virginia. The overall goal of this research is to improve understanding of West Virginia’s water resources by providing a high-resolution assessment of water use (withdrawal and consumption), water supply availability (precipitation and surface water), and water economy. The overall goal will be fulfilled by completing three objectives: 1. To quantify water withdrawal and consumption by economic sector at the watershed-scale; 2. To quantify available water supply and water supply stress at the watershed-scale; and 3. To quantify the value of water in West Virginia’s economy by determining currency ($) and number jobs attributed to water use across economic sectors and the region. The proposed research will be the first of its kind to integrate water use, water supply, and water economy data at the watershed-level, providing a novel approach for managing and prioritizing water use to optimize economic value of water use and highlight the importance of water in West Virginia and the regional economy.