Melissa Scanlan, Director of the Center for Water Policy and Professor at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, will be presenting on the public trust doctrine and how DNR water managers implement their public trust duties at the 2022 Love Our Great Lakes Day on Saturday, October 15th in Port Washington, Wisconsin.
For more information and to register for the event, please follow this link.
The Center for Water Policy welcomes its second cohort of post-doctoral Water Policy Specialists through the UW Sea Grant Water Science-Policy Fellows Program, Andrian Lee and Anya Janssen. We are also pleased to announce Joe Bevington as our inaugural Water Policy and Science Communications Fellow and Halea Fields as our first undergraduate Social Media Manager.
“We’re really excited to expand our research capacity with Andrian and Anya joining the team while also increasing our ability to share important news and research coming from the Center through Joe and Halea’s social media communications,” said Melissa Scanlan, Director for the Center and the Lynde B. Uihlein Endowed Chair and Professor in Water Policy.
Over the next year, Andrian and Anya will produce original legal research and work with the Center’s external partners to analyze U.S. water issues to shape policy and inform decision makers. This Fellowship is intended to provide recent law school graduates critical experience in the field of academic research and water policy development.
Andrian received her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Ohio State University where she worked on projects in multiple developing countries, including a health and sanitation project in El Salvador through Engineers Without Borders.After working in the private sector for several years, Andrian returned to law school at Boston College where she graduated with her juris doctor. While at Boston College, she participated in several human rights cases. She was a trip leader for an International Human Rights pro-bono trip. She participated in the International Human Rights Practicum where students filed an amicus brief for a disability rights case before the Inter-American Human Rights Court. The brief was recently cited in the decision handed down from the Court. Andrian is excited to bring her training as a civil engineer and experience advocating for underserved communities to promote equitable access to water infrastructure.
Anya holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Social Justice from Northland College, in Ashland, Wisconsin. While there, she conducted an oral history on Native American environmental activism in northern Wisconsin with her late mentor, Joe Rose, Sr., an Ojibwe tribal elder, activist, and leader in the community. She took that passion for environmentalism and sustainability to the University of San Diego where she completed a dual-degree program to receive her master’s degree and juris doctor. There, she was a comment editor for the Journal of Climate and Energy Law and participated in an Energy Law and Policy Clinic where she gained critical experience in advocacy practice. At the Center, she will be coordinating a statewide conference on the implementation of Wisconsin’s phosphorus regulations. She will also be conducting research on Wisconsin’s phosphorus regulations.
Joe received his bachelor’s degrees from the UW-Madison in Conservation Biology and Geography. During his time at UW-Madison, he participated in multiple research projects in ecology labs including work on terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, paleoclimatology, and fish ecology. Following graduation, he worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries biologist where he gained critical experiences in policy, natural resource management, and public communication. He hopes to expand his knowledge of water policy and science communication through the newly created Master’s Thesis track in water policy, economics and management at the School of Freshwater Sciences, and utilize those skills to develop novel science communication strategies for the Center.
Halea is an undergraduate at UW-Milwaukee pursuing her degree in Geography with a minor in Conservation & Environmental Sciences. Growing up hiking and camping inspired her passion for the environment and conservation. Her passion and concern about environmental justice issues and climate change grew over time, which led her to want to better understand how these systems work and the important ecosystem services they provide. Through her position as the Center’s Social Media manager, she is eager to share important news and research about environmental justice, sustainability, and water policy. She’s also excited to learn more about how water policy is developed and how those decisions impact people.
89.7 WUWM Environmental Reporter, Susan Bence interviewed our director, Melissa Scanlan, on September 7th to discuss the impacts of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act on our water and climate. The new law provides billions of dollars in federal funding for climate mitigation. Scanlan’s book Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy provides a roadmap for rapid decarbonization and she’s excited to see incentives for that in the Inflation Reduction Act.
You can listen to her interview here.
A link to the full article can be found here.
The Center for Water Policy’s Director, Melissa Scanlan, and Water Policy Specialist, Misbah Husain, tackled pressing questions about funding priorities in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
The Act prioritizes “disadvantaged communities” when allocating more than $50 billion over five years to finance water infrastructure projects nationwide—the single largest amount ever invested for this purpose. The federal Environmental Protection Agency will disburse most of this to states, tribes, and territories. Thus, the Center’s research probed a key legal question that impacts where the funds are spent: which communities are considered “disadvantaged” and eligible for funding priority? The research contextualizes this discussion through an overview of environmental justice concerns related to water infrastructure, outlines the ways that the Infrastructure Law supports the development of water infrastructure, interprets the term “disadvantaged communities,” and explains how Title VI of the Civil Rights Act may be used by disadvantaged communities to secure additional funding to correct historic neglect of water infrastructure.
Seton Hall Law Review invited Professor Scanlan to present their work at a symposium in 2022 and published their legal and policy research: Misbah Husain & Melissa Scanlan, “Disadvantaged Communities, Water Justice & The Promise of The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” 52 Seton Hall Law Review 1513 (2022).
Science is anything but a solitary endeavor. Addressing complex environmental issues requires an interdisciplinary approach, as students learned during the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee “Freshwater Practicum” taught by Melissa Scanlan, director of the Center for Water Policy.
The course simulated what it is like to work for a water consulting firm and brought together graduate students specializing in water science, atmospheric and climate science, environmental engineering, geographic information science and social sciences.
Students logged a combined 1,400 hours for their client: the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. One team analyzed how climate change is impacting Great Lakes coastal resiliency in Oconto, Brown and Manitowoc Counties. Another created a framework to help the WDNR equitably distribute new funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve drinking water infrastructure. The teams wrote reports and presented their findings and recommendations to the agency.
Sydney Morgan, a graduate student in the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science, led the team working on drinking water infrastructure. After extensively analyzing past funding distribution, public outreach programs, public data about drinking water and EPA environmental data, the team provided the DNR with several administrative, mapping and public outreach recommendations for distributing new funds in a way that promotes environmental justice.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided states the opportunity to reevaluate their infrastructure funding distribution systems, and it was amazing to get to be a part of that process,” she says. “Many of us on my team, including myself, plan to work in environmental consultancies in some capacity in our careers. This project provided on-the-ground training in consulting, as well as a glimpse into what it is like working with a government agency. It never felt like just a school project.”
Their report included a recommendation to update the state’s definition of a “disadvantaged community” to be more inclusive, ways to make the funding application process more accessible, and recommendations for improving the state’s mapping capabilities. The WDNR is already considering these recommendations to improve their public outreach.
“Environmental justice considerations are a priority for the DNR and for the new federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. We have already incorporated additional scoring criteria to better evaluate disadvantaged communities,” says Michael C. Thompson, secretary’s director for southeastern Wisconsin at the WDNR. “We have been having regular discussions with community and environmental groups, and we envision the students’ report will further inform this work.”
This is exactly the kinds of hands-on learning that Scanlan envisioned when she designed the course.
“The Freshwater Practicum allows students to apply their knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems and that can be really powerful for graduate students,” she says. “They had to learn to be effective communicators across disciplines to accomplish something together that none of them could do alone. That’s a rare and valuable skillset.”
Dillon Blount, a PhD student in the Atmospheric Science program, found this to be true. His team examined the increasing effects of climate change on coastal regions. Team members created maps of at-risk structures in Brown, Manitowoc and Oconto counties that may be impacted by future lake changes, bluff erosion and lake flooding. They also evaluated how the WDNR can perform a risk analysis to use their limited resources most efficiently and proactively.
“This project built my leaderships skills, as a team manager, which is valuable in a future career. It also taught valuable communication and writing skills that proved useful in a group setting,” he says. “I want prospective students to know that this is a learning experience. You may be getting a grade, but you are also making career connections that will be useful in the future.”
Not only did students expand their skillsets, but they met more than a dozen contacts in the private and public sector. After their presentations, Thompson offered advice to the students about how to search for and land a dream job at the WDNR.
Teammate Kiara Caldwell, a master’s student in the School of Freshwater Sciences, is interning with the WDNR’s Lakes and Rivers Bureau of Water Quality this summer. Before the practicum began, she had applied to be a Water Resources Management Fellow. Working with the WDNR during the practicum provided valuable experience for her internship.
“The technical report we created [in the course] was referenced back to me by someone I met at the Office of Great Waters on my second day!” Caldwell says. “They talked about modeling their own work in Door County after the structure we built in our report.”
Melissa Scanlan, director for the Center for Water Policy, talked to Courthouse News Services about the problem with manure runoff in drinking water.
Laura M. Suppes, PhD, MPH, REHS, has been named the 2022-23 Water Policy Scholar. Suppes is an associate professor in Public Health and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.
The Water Policy Scholars program brings policy researchers across the UW System together with freshwater scientists to frame policy questions and adapt tools to address water resource issues. The program is intended to increase the Center for Water Policy’s capacity to develop interdisciplinary and sustainable solutions to freshwater problems.
As a Water Policy Scholar, Dr. Suppes will address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are persistent, harmful, emerging contaminants present in Wisconsin ground water used for human consumption. When ingested, PFAS are associated with adverse health effects. Dr. Suppes’ Water Policy Scholar project, Model development for Assessing Illness Risk from PFAS Ingestion Exposures in Wisconsin, can help inform policy making around this emerging contaminant in water quality safety and public health. Water quality safety and emerging contaminants is one of the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin’s ten grand challenges.
Dr. Suppes’ research aims to assess the risk of adverse health outcomes from PFAS exposure in Eau Claire, WI residents. Eau Claire has more than 68,000 residents who rely on ground water as the source of municipal drinking water. PFAS were discovered in four of Eau Claire’s 16 municipal water wells during summer of 2021. Although Eau Claire’s water utility has stopped using the contaminated wells, residents consuming municipal drinking water prior to 2021 were exposed to PFAS.
Exposure data unique to the Eau Claire community, like average water ingestion volumes, will be collected and analyzed. Results will be shared with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department for use in public health messaging about PFAS exposure and illness risk, if any. The developed risk assessment model will be accessible to the Water Policy Network for use and dissemination. In the model, exposure inputs can be customized to assess illness probabilities in other areas of Wisconsin where PFAS have emerged as a drinking water contaminant. Community leaders, researchers or decision makers can use the model to assess illness probabilities unique to Wisconsin communities, helping guide policy decisions.
Suppes received her MPH in Public Health Administration and Policy from the University of Minnesota and PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Arizona. Her research interests are chemical and biological hazard identification and remediation in water, exposure assessment, and quantitative microbiological risk assessment. Her most recent research focuses on surveying indicators of nitrate contamination in private well water and assessing the impact of cyanuric acid on risk of gastrointestinal illness among swimmers.
Melissa Scanlan, director of the Center for Water Policy, provided an overview of Arlen Christenson’s professional accomplishments for his induction into the 2022 Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame on April 19, 2022.
The Center for Water Policy contributed to and edited an article, published in the April 2022 Nelson Issue Brief. The Brief features research that addresses excess nutrient concentrations, mostly nitrogen and phosphorus, in surface water. Nutrient pollution degrades recreational and commercial use of surface waters from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico, largely through blue-green algae blooms. In Wisconsin, phosphorus is the most-regulated nutrient, as nitrogen is often considered more of a threat to human health through polluted drinking water, though it also impacts surface waters.
Professor and Center Director Melissa Scanlan, author of Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy: Cooperatives and the Design of Sustainable Businesses, will present at George Mason University’s 2022 Next System Speakers Series on April 14, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
This is a free, online event. Register here.