Navigating the Future of Water: Conference Themes


Risks to freshwater systems are associated with both human activities and natural phenomena. Some are traditionally predictable statistically (floods), others are much less certain (extreme events, spills), still others present risks that have yet to be identified or quantified (emerging contaminants, invasive species and health risks). In many cases we are ill-prepared to deal with these risks, both from inattention and lack of capacity as well as from ignorance.

Session 1: Emerging Threats – Micro to Macro

This session seeks presentations on emerging threats to freshwater systems at all scales as a means to identify future potential problems and to assess their associate risks. Prevention is far less expensive and effective than restoration.

Papers are invited in the areas of the impacts of urbanization and climate change on:

  • Assessing microbiome changes
  • Water security for ecosystems – models and assessments
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Remediation and re-setting of ecosystems
  • Water associated health impacts, and
  • Water quality models for all aspects of the water cycle.

Session 2: Emerging Threats – Security, Health and Access

From reservoir to tap, the supply of freshwater is dependent on a complex array of natural and anthropogenically driven systems that span time scales from hours to decades and spatial scales from the molecular to global in scope. Projecting future conditions and driving forces will depend upon the formulation of interdisciplinary model frameworks that are informed by the understanding of the processes involved and by the data collection and monitoring systems needed for verification and calibration. This session will address the forces that will determine how freshwater systems will function under existing and future conditions.

Papers are invited in the areas of the impacts of water security related to:

  • Surface and groundwater hydrologic systems and models,
  • Watershed impacts,
  • Design of data collection and data analysis for aquatic ecosystems, and
  • The projected influence of climate change on the quantity, quality and variability in coupled freshwater systems.
  • Access to water, public health and environmental justice


Session 3: Critical Infrastructure – Measurement, analysis and models of complex water

Dealing with water supply, water security and water quality demands a comprehensive picture of the functioning of water systems. Managing our water future and assuring reliable supplies of freshwater will be dependent upon our ability to measure, monitor and track these systems and internal and external processes at the appropriate levels of detection in terms of property, concentration, and frequency. Monitoring systems that generate near real time information will be essential for efficient and safe water management.

This session solicits presentations on the means, methodologies, sensor systems and modeling tools that will allow water infrastructure managers to assure the delivery of adequate, safe and secure water supplies, to maintain and operate efficient water treatment systems and to provide early warning systems and predictive platforms for dealing with fluctuating and changing demands, impacts, supplies, and uses.

Papers are invited on:

  • Sensor systems for water supplies
  • ICA systems
  • Data analysis and operational optimization
  • Automation of operational control systems
  • Cyber security risks and management

Session 4: Critical Infrastructure – Water systems, the infrastructure crisis, and Green solutions

It has been estimated that water infrastructure in the US will require a combined investment and O&M costs of $65-100 B per year over the next 2 decades. Cities face replacement and maintenance of infrastructure that is in many cases over a 100 years old. Much this hard infrastructure was designed for conditions, loads, energy costs, and climate that no longer exist. Retrofitting, replacement and reengineering of existing physical structures has fueled a demand for innovative, cost effective, energy efficient, and less disruptive solutions. Soft infrastructure, i.e. models, services, institutional arrangements, etc., also present opportunities for innovation.

Papers on dealing with existing urban infrastructure and proposals for design of new urban systems that will maximize water efficiency and minimize water footprints related to:

  • Management of critical water infrastructure,
  • Renovation and critical element replacement
  • Systems operations,
  • Future design concepts including microgrids and the WEN,
  • Green infrastructure,
  • Water reuse, and
  • Resource recovery


Session 5: Formulating a national water policy

Today, we face a host of water resource problems, from invasive species, to excessive non-point source runoff of sediments and nutrients, to wide-spread beach closings and combined sewer overflows, to ground water overdraws and Great Lakes diversions, to lead contamination of drinking water from corroding water supply pipes in older cities. Dealing with many of these issues will require the expenditure of 100’s of millions of dollars of public and private funds over decades. Hence climate change, population growth and sustainable resource capacity all interlink in the ensuing debates on how best to manage our freshwater resources. National water policy is fragmented by agency and political jurisdiction, conflict of laws, and competing economic and societal interests. Legislation and public referenda that may rule the land for generations is often drafted and decided on nuanced legal interpretations of scientific information.

This session solicits presentations on all aspects of US water policy with an emphasis on water policy frameworks that address the issues of uncertainty and prediction for water security, urbanization and climate change covering:

  • Economics of water systems including natural ecosystems,
  • Innovative financing of water systems
  • Evolution in management of water systems
  • Evolving legislation to cope with system changes
  • Public engagement in water policy, and
  • Communication strategies for science and engineering in policy development.