This research is part of a larger effort to understand, model, and improve drought resilience, especially in the face of changing water demands and changing climate. This fellowship will focus on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) aspects of drought resilience, building on existing approaches. LCA is a tool to avoid shifting impacts in time, space, or environmental media, and there is a need to improve characterization of water use in this systems framework.
The researcher (with a PhD in Environmental Engineering or Science, or related discipline) will have experience enabling them to contribute directly to research to evaluate and improve tools for assessing drought resilience in a LCA context.
Components of this research may include the following: (1) to improve data resolution for surface and groundwater availability in LCA models in the United States; (2) to investigate the use of globally available data to predict surface and groundwater distributions, using the heterogeneous yet data rich United States as a validation for such predictions; (3) to investigate the inclusion of non-renewable (i.e., “fossil’) groundwater into models for water availability and water scarcity; and (4) to compare novel approaches to existing water stress approaches using case studies, as part of a larger global effort towards consensus on modeling water impacts in LCIA.
In addition, this research may be expanded to include related topics, depending on the interest and training of the Associate. These topics allow for creativity and interdisciplinarity on the part of the researcher. One topic may be to better understand local impacts of nutrient releases that affect water quality via eutrophication or acidification, perhaps as a function of potential climate scenarios. A broader topic would be to propose and test models for ecosystem services that are spatially explicit, accounting for changes in either water quantity or quality (i.e., nutrient releases). Ecosystem services encompass a broad range of both functional outputs and intrinsically valuable states of the natural environment; modeling these in an LCA context will require creative assimilation of a variety of concepts and models at a variety of scales.
Most importantly, the researcher will be required to work in a team-oriented environment, be creative, and show an ability to learn and apply new skills and concepts efficiently. The Sustainable Technology Division uses a multidisciplinary approach, which employs ecologists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, geographers, and physical scientists, to address sustainability issues at a variety of scales and in a variety of systems.
Boulay AM, Bare J, De Camillis C., et al: “Consensus building on the development of a stress-based indicator for LCA-based impact assessment of water consumption: outcome of the expert workshops.” International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 20(5): 577-583, 2015
Drought resilience; Life cycle impact assessment; Life cycle assessment; LCIA/LCA; Surface water; Groundwater; Geospatial; Ecological modeling; Water stress;