Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019KS015G

Mapping and modeling of interbasin water transfers within the United States

Institute: Kansas
USGS Grant Number: G20AP00002
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2020-01-01 End Date: 2022-12-31
Total Federal Funds: $250,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $250,000

Principal Investigators: Landon Marston

Abstract: Interbasin water transfers (IBTs) can have a significant effect on the hydrology, environment, water supplies, and economies of the basins importing and exporting water, as well those downstream of the transfer. Though there is often local knowledge of water transfers, we lack a comprehensive national understanding of the role IBTs play in supplying water for society, as well as the collective hydrologic impact of IBTs. The proposed project will create a centralized, publicly accessible database and visualization of IBTs within the United States and harness this data to understand the impact of IBTs on society and the environment. The growing trend of IBTs as a water management strategy over the last several decades, along with the recent climate extremes experienced across the United States over the last few years, signifies the timeliness of the proposed research. The USGS has denoted that a national inventory of IBTs is a high priority because it enables closure of water budget and improves estimates of water availability and use. Specifically, our work will enable us to quantify how IBTs impact water resources at the regional and national scale and model how these impacts may evolve under changing climate, population shifts, and land use changes. This study will also provide an empirical basis for modeling IBTs, improve the overall fidelity of hydrologic models, and thus, enhance approaches for estimation of water supply and demand. Moreover, the new data and knowledge created by our study will serve as a catalyst for new research surrounding IBTs and, more generally, human influences on water resources. The primary goal of the proposed work is to advance understanding of the role IBTs play in shaping water availability across the nation and the corresponding implications to the environment and society. This overarching goal will be achieved through three key objectives. Objective 1 is to produce a comprehensive and publicly available national inventory of interbasin water transfers. In creating a standardized IBT data product, we will work with USGS Co-PIs to leverage USGS’s existing network of local, state, and federal stakeholders that maintain data on IBTs. Next, objective 2 is to generate models to estimate, predict, and gap fill IBT conveyance volumes. These data-driven models will help us uncover new knowledge buried with the data and enable prediction through applications of statistical, machine learning, and processed-based approaches. Finally, objective 3 we will determine the collective impact of IBTs under current and historical conditions, as well as under different water supply/demand and climate scenarios. We will work in coordination with over 35 large-scale hydrological and land surface modeling groups that intend to utilize our data and findings to explore numerous unanswered questions on how IBTs impact hydrology, ecosystems, and water supplies at local, regional, and national scales. The proposed research will involve significant collaboration between university researchers and USGS. Together, we will advance our understanding of human influence on the water cycle, improve estimates of water supply, and better estimate the impact of anthropogenic and natural changes on water resources - all key research priorities set forth by USGS and NIWR. This project will have a strong educational component through the training of two graduate students and up to ten undergraduate students who will assist in data collection and model building. Given the affirmed importance of this project to the scientific community and management agencies, we will ensure that the potential impact of our research is fulfilled through wide distribution of our findings via multiple outlets, including online visualizations and data dissemination, peer reviewed publications, and workshops with users of our research.