Smart Management of Water Systems for Sustainability

In light of the need to manage water systems in ways that are resilient to climate change, feasible given the current state of aging infrastructure, and responsive to a legacy of pollution, the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is engaged in building an international knowledge base to facilitate the design of sustainable water infrastructures. We use a systems based approach “from source to city to receiving water body” which emphasizes methods appropriate for regions with plentiful water supply. The work requires interactions among scientists, engineers, water managers, and decision makers to connect science and decision making for urgent water policy issues.

Working within this domain, we employ a Sense, Analyze, Interpret, Decide and Act (SAIDA) approach to the design of water systems. This “hydro-informatics” approach is computationally based and uses novel sensor arrays, wireless technologies, web informatics, and novel decision tools. The sensing systems allow real-time assessment of urban and watershed fluxes, permit the evaluation and optimization of green infrastructure for water management, and form the basis for modular models to support design and decision-making to mitigate pollution and increase infrastructure system resiliency.

Recent work also involves hydrologic modeling across scales from local to continental using high performance computing. For example, we are conducting distributed modeling of headwater systems to improve our understanding of hydrologic processes as well as to evaluate how researchers and practitioners can better use complex models within an uncertainty framework. The college’s work in this field is based upon expertise in hydrology, soil physics, aquatic and soil chemistry, sensor systems and informatics. It draws added depth from colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences who conduct research in the areas of geology, geomorphology, sociology and history. Current projects include instrumenting green roofs to measure water inflows, outflows, and assessment of water chemistry; identifying social and political factors leading Syracuse to emerge as a national leader in green infrastructure; and developing a wireless sensor network to monitor green infrastructure performance in real time. In addition, a major grant has established the Education Model Program on Water Energy Research (EMPOWER) to fund graduate students working at the nexus of water and energy research.

A related area  of research connects smart water management with the study of critical and resilient infrastructure. Working from an interdisciplinary perspective with colleagues from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs and the Law School, we study the security of water infrastructures and examine their resilience to natural, technological, and terroristic hazards.

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