Many people all over the world, especially in cities, lack access to clean, safe water. Now, a geography professor and researcher at Texas A&M University, Dr. Wendy Jepson, has received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the problem, according to story published on the website of the school’s newspaper, The Battalion.
She’ll collaborate with the Household Water Insecurity Research Coordination Network and continue her work with a team of water security experts. Jepson, who serves as lead principal investigator on the project, will join forces with other PIs from the University of Miami, Arizona State University and Northwestern University.
“That network is to build and solidify existing interdisciplinary collaborations that we have been working on in the past three years,” Jepson says. “We had these relationships, not only among ourselves, but also with about 40 other scholars from 25 different institutions in the U.S. and internationally.”
“The question is,” says Jepson, “how can we solidify and organize these ideas and advance the social science around some critical global challenges around water insecurity and sanitation?”
Jepson said grants like this give scientists a platform to speak with stakeholders, including collaborators from the Royal Geographical Society in London. Besides that, the funding will contribute to workshops, outreach and collaborations among network members and will also allow lab-to-lab visits for individual researchers.
John Tracy, director of the Texas Water Resources Institute, works with Jepson in studying water insecurity in urban settings. He’s a team member on “Pathways to Sustainable Urban Water Security: Desalination and Water Reuse in the 21st Century,” one of Jepson’s seven research projects.
“What we’ve been primarily looking at is trying to understand how water infrastructure can be more effectively developed in urban environments to meet the water needs of communities,” Tracy said. “We’re looking at it from the perspective of people feeling secure, both in the quantity and quality of the water they’re able to access.”
Tracy said that Jepson is working with researchers all across the U.S., “bringing people together for workshops, and developing interactions with water utility companies, the sort of people that would be interested in the information that would be generated from the research and trying to refine what those research questions should be.”
Kent Portney, a professor at The Bush School of Government and Public Service, contributed to Jepson’s research on how desalination facilities have affected issues of water availability in the places where they operate.
“Ultimately, the issue of water security is as much about fairness as it is about efficiency,” Portney said. “That’s what motivates these projects, and I’m sure that’s the same thing that motivates the projects that Dr. Jepson is involved in.”