Interdisciplinary Team at UTEP Works on Generating Cyber Infrastructure for Water Sustainability Over the Next Few Decades
LUCERO FIERRO | December 20, 2018
Natalia Villanueva-Rosales, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at the University of Texas at El Paso, has received $599,451 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to work on a water sustainability cyber-infrastructure for future generations.
Working in collaboration with Deana Pennington, Ph.D., associate professor of geological sciences at UTEP, this multidisciplinary and bilingual project will also feature scientists and people from different institutions. The NSF-sponsored project, a spinoff of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that has been active for five years, incorporates researchers from UTEP departments of Computer Science, Geology, Biology and Civil Engineering and the Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM), along with scientists from New Mexico State University, Texas A&M University, the University of New Mexico, the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ) and Michigan Technological University.
This three-year grant aims to provide Sustainable Water through Integrated Systems (SWIM) to the fields of agriculture, industry, municipal and environment. SWIM is a tool that will enable the understanding of water availability in the Southwest region based on scientific data and models while using the latest technology, such as web development and mobile technology.
“This grant will contribute to harnessing the data revolution, which is one of the NSF biggest ideas,” Villanueva said. “We hope this project will empower people in taking data-driven decisions on the use of water.”
The project will be modeling regional surface and groundwater from Elephant Butte, New Mexico, to Fort Quitman, Texas, as well as working on Chihuahua, Mexico. With nearly 40 percent of the world’s population experiencing water scarcity, these models will be used to test long-term impacts of different scenarios of climate and population change as well as potential long-term impacts on water users.
Pennington described this project as a great way to give access to rigorous water models in order to assess water sustainability in this region. “We are doing this through an intuitive, understandable interface to give access to all people,” she said.
This match and learning project is set to begin in January 2019, where two master’s students, one from the Department of Geological Sciences and one from the Department of Computer Science will be helping with the participatory modeling and the software development.
“We are very excited and we hope to make an impact on the people living in this area and hopefully elsewhere. We eventually want to expand and build national cyber infrastructure resources for the people to use,” Villanueva said.