NAU Research Project Receives Federal 104(g) Grant

Jan. 26, 2024
figure showing The relationships between natural capital accounting frameworks, ecosystem services assessments, and the System of National Accounts

Guest Author: Benjamin Ruddell, Professor, School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University

Each year, in accordance with the Water Resources Research Act, Section 104(g), the US Geological Survey — in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) — issues a call for research proposals. The 104(g) National Competitive Grants Program supports research on water problems and issues of a regional or interstate nature beyond those of concern only to a single state. A 2023 proposal from NAU researchers, titled "Developing the Next Generation of US Water Accounts: A Water Tower Methodology for Natural Capital Accounting," has been awarded funding, a notable accomplishment due to the competitive nature of the 104(g) program. The project, proposed by Principal Investigators Benjamin Ruddell and Richard Rushforth, PhD student Eric Sjöstedt, and USGS collaborators Ken Bagstad and Pierre Glynn, will be carried out over the next three years.

Recent decades have witnessed growing recognition of the need to systematically measure and understand interconnections between the environment and natural resources and national economies. Given that need, a new set of international statistical standards — the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) — has arisen and is increasingly being applied globally, including in the US. Doing so requires novel integration of environmental and economic data in a manner consistent with national economic accounting principles. For water resources, this entails quantifying water supply and use, water assets, water quality, and water emissions, as well as the role of ecosystems in regulating the quantity, quality, and timing of water flows. 

This project aims to produce a new methodology for national SEEA water accounting through development of a novel national water towers model that links water use to the water's origin in upstream headwater ecosystems. The researchers will examine basin-scale fresh water and groundwater flows, stocks, inter-basin transfers, and water use. This project will produce high-resolution SEEA water accounts across the continental US, with sectoral and land cover-based accounts linking water supply and use that highlight socioeconomic vulnerabilities related to the Nation’s water supply. Overall, this research will provide essential insights for decision-making and policy for water resource management aiming at more sustainable watershed management in the era of climate change.

The WRRC is accepting proposals for the new FY2024 104(g) grant cycle. The proposal deadline is March 27, 2024 (BEFORE 5:00 PM MST). More Info

Image: Fig. 1. The relationships between natural capital accounting frameworks, ecosystem services assessments, and the System of National Accounts. (Kenneth J. Bagstad, et al. “Lessons learned from development of natural capital accounts in the United States and European Union.” Ecosystem Services, Volume 52, 2021.)