$3M grant to address food, energy, water needs in Columbia basin - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

$3M grant to address food, energy, water needs in Columbia basin

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PULLMAN, WA – A team led by Washington State University will study how to better coordinate and manage the food, water and energy needs of the Columbia River basin using a $3 million grant. 

The grant is cosponsored between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A changing climate and population growth affect food, energy and water systems. As part of the grant, the researchers are studying how these systems interact and how to optimize resource management and technology innovations, such as smart systems and energy storage technology, to deal with the expected shocks and pressures associated with global change.

The project will allow the researchers to quantify for the first time the innovations that are most effective and make the best use of resources, which can then be used for developing better policies. The researchers will work with communities and other stakeholders to develop and adopt the most effective strategies.

They hope the work will eventually be applied to other river basins across the country and the world. 

“Recognizing and balancing how technological and institutional solutions complement, substitute for or conflict with one another within and between sectors will be critically important for identifying appropriate strategies for managing existing and future tradeoffs and conflicts,” said Julie Padowski, clinical assistant professor with WSU's Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO) and state Water Research Center (WRC) and a co-leader of the project.

The river basin is ideal for the project because it is a huge supplier of food, energy and water, and the resources are tightly connected. The basin also has a limited storage system. So, while some larger watersheds have enough reservoir storage to hold over a year’s amount of water, the Columbia basin can only store about 30 percent of its annual water in reservoirs.

As part of the grant, the researchers will integrate many of the models that are already being used to better understand the complex interactions throughout the basin and evaluate how possible innovations, such as precision agriculture or new types of energy storage batteries, might have an impact.