Workshop Report: “Water Assessments: Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Mapping W-E-F Stressors” – 12 to 13 January 2017 Maryland, USA

On January 12 and 13, 2017 the Sustainable Water Future Programme (SWFP) and the Future Earth Water-Energy-Food (W-E-F) Nexus Sustainability Cluster project hosted a workshop titled “Water Assessments: Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Mapping W-E-F Stressors” at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Weather and Climate Prediction at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.  Approximately 30 experts attended the workshop, some attending only the first day and others only the second.

The workshop began with a review of the SWFP and its water assessment and W-E-F activities.  The water assessment discussion led off with Charles Vörösmarty (City University of New York), followed by Stefan Uhlenbrook (World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)), who gave a teleconference briefing on WWAP Water Assessments. Presentations were then given across a broad spectrum of support activities. The first was on a new global water sustainability project known as GEOGLOWS (Angélica Gutiérrez-Magness, NOAA) and national programs including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Budget computations (Ward Sanford, USGS), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Applied Research on Water (Bradley Doorn, NASA), and the NOAA Water Information Dashboard (Nancy Beller-Simms, NOAA). It is clear that substantial national water assessment activities are being undertaking in the United States but extrapolating these efforts to the global scale will require considerable work.

The needs of primary users for water data was examined by looking at a number of projects and their affiliated data-utilization programmes.  The session focused on defining the needs for basic data and data products in carrying out global-scale assessments.  The reviews included the needs for data/information products for water assessments (Balazs Fekete, City University of New York), the needs for data to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) generally through the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) (Argyro Kavvada, NASA), the specific needs of the Water SDG with reference to Global Expanded Water Monitoring Initiative (GEMI) planning (Sushel Unninayar, NASA) and needs for basic data products for the W-E-F Nexus based on a Future Earth Cluster Project (Richard Lawford, Morgan State University and GEO).

After having identified these needs and activities, participants spent time defining the Road Map for Water Assessments.  These were summarized in a possible matrix formulation outlining all water needs and potential data sources. Potential responses were given from NASA, NOAA, USGS, and related programs. General products were described along with more detailed descriptions of what is being done with different datasets derived from different missions.  Specific presentations were given on the NASA Energy and Water Study, which develops products aimed at integrating the energy and water budgets at many different scales (Paul Houser, NASA), satellite-based water budgets (Matt Rodell, NASA), precipitation (George Huffman, NASA), soil moisture (Iliana Mladenova, NASA), water levels (Charon Birkett, NASA), streamflow (John Jones, USGS), water quality (Emily Smail, NOAA), evaporation (Thomas Holmes, NASA), and LDAS/LIS products (A. L. McNally, NASA).  Based on the discussions that followed, it is clear that there is a consensus that we have a substantial number of the requireddatasets and analysis tools to move forward with such an assessment on a global basis.  In addition, the workshop participants indicated that they had an interest in contributing to this effort.  SWFP is a potential mechanism for advancing these contributions.

The second day of the workshop shifted the focus to the W-E-F Nexus, the role of data, and the need for information systems. Overviews of needs for data products were given in talks on land information and land policies (Claudia Ringler, International Water Management Institute), the Future Earth regional W-E-F workshops (Lawford), and the W-E-F Nexus in Asia, with a focus on the Mekong Basin (Jiaguo Qi – Michigan State University).  A number of other participants provided perspectives on W-E-F activities, including the GEO Foundational Task on User Needs and Gap Analysis (Hans-Peter Plag, Old Dominion University), the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites W-E-F studies (Hugo Berbery, University of Maryland), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) WEF studies (Annukka Lipponen, UN-Water), the Secretary of State’s concerns about water and the W-E-F (Julien Katchinoff, U.S. Department of State), and the High Level Panel on Water and the World Bank Study on Water data for SDG6 (Argyro Kavvada, NASA).

Information products being developed for the W-E-F were also discussed. They include GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) products (Pierre Guillevic, University of Maryland) and the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) soil moisture products for agricultural applications (John Qu). The current and planned National Water Center model products were discussed in terms of national capacities (Brain Cosgrove, NOAA).

The network of in-situ data centres coordinated through the Global Terrestrial Network – Hydrology (GTN-H) was also discussed (Wolfgang Grabs, German Hydrology Institute).  Some efforts to integrate data and modelling capabilities to address W-E-F issues in Brazil, South Africa, and China is underway (Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, University of Maryland).

There was some discussion about the types of analysis and systems that are needed for the W-E-F Nexus and for assessing W-E-F Nexus stressors through an end-to-end study, which was presented in overview by Charles Vörösmarty.  The idea of a project to undertake geospatial mapping of W-E-F stressors was discussed as it relates specifically to the GEO Community Activity on Earth observations and the W-E-F.  It was clear that datasets were discussed as they relate to the GEO Community activity on Earth Observations and the W-E-F.  It was clear that datasets derived from satellite data would be essential for this analysis.  In a number of cases, the tools exist for bringing these datasets together.  However, the workshop stopped short of identifying people to undertake this task.

There was discussion about possible recommendations for the final report being prepared on the water cluster W-E-F project.  Many of the presentations provided opportunities to be pursued and these will be considered for inclusion in the report.  There was agreement that pilot projects would provide a useful approach for moving forward and that the Mekong River Basin was an ideal drainage basin where this collaborative work could be undertaken.  Questions arose over ways to obtain data that are not collected on a regular basis, how to obtain socio-economic data, and information platforms and program implementation considerations.  A more complete workshop report will be made available in due course.

News Item Courtesy Of:
Richard Lawford and Charles Vörösmarty
Sustainable Water Future Programme