University of Florida

Research: Land and Water Resources Engineering

Research projects in Land and Water Resources Engineering

Water Conservation (Quality And Quantity) In Agricultural, Urban And Residential Land Uses For Sustainable Water Supplies

Investigators:Migliaccio, K. W.; Dukes, M. D.; Li, Y. C.; Schaffer, B.; Crane, J. H.; Toor, G.; Boman, B.

To protect water supplies for current and future needs in south Florida, it is necessary to evaluate and implement practices that best conserve water quality and quantity. Hence, research activities are needed to characterize the hydrology and transport processes influencing south Florida's water resources. Demands on water resources in south Florida are diverse and include agriculture, urbanization, recreation and preservation sectors. Research activities to meet these broad needs are described in this document which serves as an `umbrella' project for my program.

Objectives

  • to evaluate sources, transport and delivery of pollutants as related to the hydrologic cycle in order to develop viable management practices for their mitigation;
  • to develop and assess water management practices for south Florida's vegetable, fruit and ornamental nursery crops that promote sustainable agriculture;
  • to develop and assess management practices for south Florida's residential and urban landscapes; and
  • to apply modeling techniques to evaluate water quality and quantity issues for better understanding of hydrologic processes and development of realistic water conservation goals.

Irrigation Management for Humid and Sub-Humid Areas

Investigators: Haman, D.Z; M.D. Dukes

Numerous areas in Florida, Georgia, and other locations will not be able to meet projected water demands based on current usage growth within the next decade. Much of the water used is for residential and agricultural irrigation. Proper management of existing irrigation systems and proper design of future systems is critical to ensure effective use of water supplies. This increased need for better water management is also associated with economic and environmental incentives based on low commodity prices and additional regulations associated with quality of water resources. The overall goals of this multi-state project will be to coordinate research and extension programs that are associated with irrigation management in the sub-humid and humid regions of the United States. The emphasis of the project will be toward practices, systems, and approaches that will provide improved use and reduced impacts of water associated with irrigation on a local and multi-state scale (based on the resource). An over-riding emphasis of this project is to encourage approaches toward maximizing the net benefits of irrigation and making sure these approaches are available, understandable, and feasible for current and future irrigators.

Objectives

  • Improve automation, control, and distribution technology to increase irrigation efficiency.
  • Improve irrigation scheduling methods and the knowledge/application base associated with crop coefficients, reference evapotranspiration predictions, precipitation forecasting, and field-based sensor systems as they relate to plant water use.
  • Enhance water supplies and reduce water quality impacts of irrigation management where rainfall is an important component of the water supply issue.
  • Enhance the transfer of irrigation technologies and management alternatives emphasizing economic and environmental benefits.

Modeling For Tmdl Development, And Watershed Based Planning, Management And Assessment

Investigator: Munoz-Carpena, R.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the cornerstone of surface water quality protection in the United States. (The Act does not deal directly with ground water or water quantity issues.) The statute employs a variety of regulatory and nonregulatory tools to sharply reduce direct pollutant discharges into waterways, finance municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and manage polluted runoff. These tools are employed to achieve the broader goal of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters so that they can support "the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water." For many years following the passage of CWA in 1972, EPA, states, and Indian tribes focused mainly on the chemical aspects of the "integrity" goal. During the last decade, however, more attention has been given to physical and biological integrity. Also, in the early decades of the Act's implementation, efforts focused on regulating discharges from traditional "point source" facilities, such as municipal sewage plants and industrial facilities, with little attention paid to runoff from streets, construction sites, farms, and other "wet-weather" sources. Starting in the late 1980s, efforts to address polluted runoff have increased significantly. For "nonpoint" runoff, voluntary programs, including cost-sharing with landowners are the key tools. For "wet weather point sources" like urban storm sewer systems and construction sites, a regulatory approach is being employed. Evolution of CWA programs over the last decade has also included something of a shift from a program-by-program, source-by-source, pollutant-by-pollutant approach to more holistic watershed-based strategies. Under the watershed approach equal emphasis is placed on protecting healthy waters and restoring impaired ones. A full array of issues are addressed, not just those subject to CWA regulatory authority. Involvement of stakeholder groups in the development and implementation of strategies for achieving and maintaining state water quality and other environmental goals is another hallmark of this approach (EPA, 2003). The National Section 303(d) fact sheet (EPA, 2006) showed a total number of impaired waters reported as 38,698. The leading causes of these impairment were pathogens (13.37%), Mercury (13.30%), Sediment (10.61%), Metals (other than Mercury 9.92%), Nutrients (8.77%), Oxygen Depletion (7.01%), PH (5.41%), Cause Unknown Biological Integrity (4.35), and Temperature (4.31%) (EPA, 2006). Because of the immensity of the stream miles, lakes and estuaries involved and the jurisdictional differences within the impaired watersheds, tools are needed to better understand the causes and potential processes that can be used to restore and protect these water bodies. Combining remote sensing, monitoring, geographical information systems, and numerical simulation has been shown to be an effective and economic solution to these issues

Objectives

  • Develop databases and geographic information systems (GIS) that contain information needed to simulate water quality issues.
  • Develop rapid assessment tools that can be used to best place limited financial assistance available to address these issues.
  • Evaluate watershed simulation models and their potential to give realistic and economic assessments on a range of scales from the watershed to the individual farm.

Evaluation And Implementation Of Multi-Scale Water Conservation And Protection Strategies

Investigator: Martinez, C.J.

The economic and social development of the southeast United States over the past several decades has been fueled by its climate and abundant water resources. Increased population, rapid urban development, and large agricultural water demands have led to conflicts between water users and the need to protect natural systems. Management strategies and cultural practices have a major impact on the demand on, and the availability and quality of, water resources. Improved management of water supplies, reduction in non-essential/discretional outdoor water use, reduction of the use of potable water for non-potable applications, and the adoption of practices that minimize the effect of urban development on water quality can minimize or ameliorate the human impact on natural resources in the region.

Objectives

The overall objective of this project is to protect natural resources by improving water management, reducing water use, and minimizing impacts on water quality. Specific objectives include:

  • To improve regional-scale water resource management using weather and climate forecast information.
  • To improve, develop, and evaluate outdoor water conservation strategies of individual homeowners and users.
  • To minimize water quality impacts of urban/suburban landscapes.

Integrated Agro-Ecological And Hydrological Modeling For Analysis Of Complex, Adaptive, Environmental Decisions

Investigator: Kiker, G.A.

In the past, agricultural and environmental managers worked primarily within a technical context, which simplified most complex challenges into simple, well-behaved objectives. Single objective problems of the past, such as flood control, crop production and land-use planning have become complicated by multiple objectives and conflicting societal values. The selection of alternatives that include significant ecological risks and uncertainties coupled with divergent stakeholder goals dominates resource managers' time and energy.Wicked problems stem from the cross-disciplinary and multiple objective nature of problems. When facing this daunting convolution of forces, decision-makers often turn to ad hoc or overly-intuitive approaches in solving complex ecological problems. Given the current state decision-making in adaptive environmental management projects, there is a significant need for integrated tools that allow decision makers and stakeholders to systematically engage complex, scale-varied, environmental problems. Recent environmental assessment efforts have identified this need. Computer simulation models and interactive decision tools/games coupled with human interaction methodologies have been suggested as one solution to create adaptive learning environments. In addition, scenario analysis provides a powerful way to think about uncertainty and risk. Scenarios are sets of possible future worlds in which strategic options provide storylines for these envisioning futures to be played out under social, political and economic realities. Objectives of this research effort include the construction of a flexible framework for scoping problems in a systematic method, the creation of viable integrated simulation, decision and scenario tools for managing the various elements of complex environmental challenges (namely interaction, visualization and calculation) and the application at sites of various scales and locations.

Objectives

  • Construct an overall methodological framework to integrate model creation, model simulation, decision/scenario analysis and adaptive learning.
  • Develop computer programs for the construction and use of simulation models and scenarios for scale-varied, complex environmental challenges.
  • Explore and test the scenario model framework on different case study areas to illustrate adaptive learning and management with different scenarios, models and scales.

Expected outcomes of this research include the following: (1) systematic scenario simulation/gaming tools for framing wicked problems and iteratively testing scale and uncertainty issues within social, ecological and technical contexts; (2) educational tools and materials appropriately focused through the rubric of games that can be used at various educational levels from middle school to post-graduate studies; and (3) case studies that elucidate practical stakeholder interactions with model scenario formulation and multi-scale issues.