Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019WV276B

Updating the West Virginia State Water Budget: Quantifying monthly and seasonal water use, thresholds, and stress at the watershed-scale

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-05-31 End Date: 2020-05-30
Total Federal Funds: $7,893 Total Non-Federal Funds: $16,099

Principal Investigators: Nicolas Zegre

Abstract: Water is used in virtually every aspect of the economy and needed to support in-stream functions important for maintaining critical ecosystem services that society depends. Notwithstanding, the ability of watersheds for provisioning ample fresh water for people and organisms is threatened by competition between water users, population growth, economic development, and the uneven distribution of water. Despite our reliance on clean, reliable water supply and fresh water ecosystem services derived from West Virginia’s watersheds, the state’s water budget, and more specifically, the timing, location amount, and sustainability thresholds pertaining to water use are poorly understood, having important implications for watershed sensitivity and the organism they support. This lack of understanding stems in part to a scale mismatch between existing water use datasets and to the paucity of research in West Virginia that defines thresholds where water withdrawals are delirious to biological and hydrological function. Designing policies and practices that sustainably manage West Virginia’s water resources for multiple uses requires detailed understanding of how much water is being used, when, where, by whom. Furthermore, it requires understanding at what point water withdrawals have deleterious consequences for in-stream biology, fresh water ecosystem services that include dilution, filtration, and drinking water, as well as consequences for other potential uses of water across West Virginia’s economy. The overall goal of this research, therefore, is to improve water resources management by updating the West Virginia State Water Budget. This will be accomplished through a state-wide inventory that summarizes trends in existing water use datasets and building monthly and seasonal water use models that will permit identification thresholds when watersheds become stressed. This work will be fulfilled by completing three specific objectives: 1. Analyze the existing WVDEP Large Quantity Users (LQU) and the USGS Water Use datasets to quantify current water withdrawals by water use sector; 2. Develop state-wide monthly and seasonal water withdrawal and water consumption dataset across water use sectors; and 3. Develop statewide water stress indices to identify watershed-scale stress to varying thresholds monthly and seasonal water withdrawals by water use sector. Results from this research will generate critically needed information for updating the West Virginia State Water Budget and sustainably managing the state’s water resources. Our comprehensive, state-wide inventory of watershed-level withdrawals, thresholds, and stress will be mapped to identify areas that are important for drinking water and to identify watersheds sensitive to withdrawals with respect to drinking water quantity and quality, aquatic health, and fresh water ecosystem services. Furthermore, this work will provide a useful framework for annual reporting to the State Legislature by state and federal agencies that will be accompanied by presentations and reporting to those agencies.