The mission of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) is to work toward solving water resources challenges in a collaborative, multidisciplinary way that brings together stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including representatives from government, business, academia, and the nonprofit world.
AWRA has spent almost 60 years bringing together scientists, researchers, academics, and a variety of stakeholders from the private and public sectors to solve critical water issues in the United States and abroad. At our meetings and gatherings, you will not be surprised to find an engineer, a hydrologist, a public health scientist, a sociologist, a policy analyst, a land planner, and community advocates working together: we believe that this is how we will resolve water resources challenges, and, in fact, that we will find solutions to these issues by providing a forum for information exchange, professional development, and education.
This multidisciplinary emphasis has drawn membership from a wide variety of water-related disciplines in academia, government, and private industry and has allowed AWRA programs to rapidly adapt to emerging issues, changes in technology, and the shifting needs of our members.
The driver of change for much of our work is created through AWRA’s Technical Committees, which together serve as a national, organized body of professionals who work to highlight the emerging obstacles and opportunities happening in the water resources community.
Using Data and Technology
Our Technology Committee has taken a key role in advancing our mission. The change makers in this group are working to understand and solve problems related to water resources by accessing tech expertise and data. Their approach makes sense: modern tools, such as high-performance cloud computing, geospatial data visualization, data analytics, and machine learning/ artificial intelligence, have fueled the development of novel decision-making frameworks and web-based applications that are integral to water resources management.
- Future Risk Committee The group focuses on quantifying risks, developing strategies to adapt to changes that include social justice and equity lenses, and mitigating the risks of water quality, quantity, conflict, and cybersecurity that threaten our communities and ecosystems.
- Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Committee Its members foster an ongoing conversation about how to make IWRM the standard practice in water resources management across the country.
- Policy Committee This group assists the AWRA Board in taking a national and international leadership role in the area of water-resource policy and translates scientific work into a format for action that public decision makers can use as they formulate water policy.
- Technology Committee The participants in this group engage AWRA members in defining the role of technology in water resources by using comprehensive and collaborative approaches that take full advantage of available data services, analytical tools, and cross-disciplinary program coordination.
- Journal of American Water Resources Association (JAWRA, a bi-monthly peer-reviewed publication This journal features original papers that examine the multidisciplinary and complex issues surrounding water resources. JAWR is one of the oldest water resources journals in the United States.
The committee encourages the water community to solve problems by using comprehensive and collaborative approaches that take full advantage of available data services, analytical tools, and cross-disciplinary program coordination. Over the last twenty years, this group has been responsible for organizing the Geospatial Water Technology Conference (GWTC) (formerly known as the GIS and Water Resources Conference), which brings together scientists, engineers, modelers, and software designers from the public and private sectors.
Most critically, GWTC creates networking opportunities that lead to future collaborations among scientists from universities across the United States. Attendees commonly report that they found their next employer or research collaborators by attending a GWTC Conference and using this opportunity to connect their work with the research of others.
During the 2022 AWRA Geospatial Water Technology Conference in Austin, Texas, we organized special sessions around water technology applications, such as: how to use machine learning/artificial intelligence to assess water quality and quantity; how to model, monitor, and forecast floods; how to build community data platforms and web apps; how to use the internet to build data infrastructure around water resources; how to create urban-flooding, open-knowledge networks; and how to develop realtime predictions and transportation routing. Attendance included representatives from over 75% of the 50 states!
Our 2024 conference, which will take place in Orlando from March 25–27, with the theme “Data to Decisions: Managing and Modeling Water Challenges,” will center on novel data-science applications to address water challenges, including climate change adaptation, water availability, water quality, hazard risk assessment, real-time response and decision-making, and DEIA in managing water resources.
Assessing Future Risk
AWRA’s Future Risk Technical Committee has made leaps and bounds toward ensuring that a variety of critical issues are being addressed at the national level. These concerns include quantifying risks; developing strategies to adapt to changes, while focusing on social justice and equity challenges; and mitigating the risks related to water quality, quantity, conflict, and cybersecurity that threaten our communities and ecosystems.
The Future Risk Committee co-hosted a 2022 Spring Specialty conference with the Alabama Water Institute and received strong support from the National Water Center. Conference topics included climate change, flooding and drought, water instrument advancement, hydrologic and integrated modeling, water policy and infrastructure, and much more. AWRA highlighted some of this critical research and groundbreaking work in the November/ December 2021 and January/February 2022 issues of IMPACT magazine. The committee plans to organize the 2024 AWRA Spring Specialty Conference by focusing on the theme “Water Risk and Resilience: Research and Sustainable Solutions,” and the group also plans to guest edit a future issue of JAWRA focused on the topic of water risk in a changing world.
The committee plans to organize the 2024 AWRA Spring Specialty Conference by focusing on the theme “Water Risk and Resilience: Research and Sustainable Solutions.”
The committee welcomes contributions from a diverse, multidisciplinary group of water professionals, including thought leaders and on-the-ground implementers, and encourages them to disseminate their work, share ideas, and learn about cutting-edge research findings and transformative solutions to addressing water risks.
Connecting Land and Water
Many professionals who serve across our committees recently engaged in a critical and much-needed conversation that was lacking in our space: a deep discussion about the fact that individuals working with land resources and those working with water resources often lack opportunities to connect. The management of land and the management of water are intricately related, but their connections are often not adequately recognized or supported. An upcoming AWRA Specialty Conference, “Connecting Land & Water for Healthy Communities,” will convene in Denver from July 17-19, 2023.This conference will bring together stakeholders across multiple disciplines, types of organizations, and professions to address the design, integration, and implementation of programs necessary to better connect land and water planning, management, and policy.
Conference conveners and those planning to attend recognize the inextricable linkage between land planning, on the one hand, and water use and supply, on the other, and they also recognize the importance of connecting land and water professions, institutions, public policies, management practices, and decision-making processes at multiple scales. They make the following observations:
- Fostering connections between land managers and water resource managers as they make decisions is critical to the health and safety, economy, environment, and cultural enrichment and humanity of the communities and people whom our professions serve.
- Fragmentation occurs when the impacts of climate change and possible responses are not considered; when there is a disconnect among local, state, and federal decision makers and regulators; when groundwater and surface water are not managed in tandem; when land and water use professionals are siloed off from each other; when diverse property owners are at odds; when disparate data sets are interpreted by different agencies and academic consultants who don’t share the information; when local land use planners don’t coordinate with local water and wastewater planners; and when nongovernmental actors and disenfranchised communities cannot navigate the political process.
- The failure to create connection often results in: unsustainable growth and land-use change in arid regions, at-risk flood plains and coastal zones, as well as fire-prone wildland-urban interface areas; increased vulnerability of communities to extreme weather events, water scarcity, flooding, water quality degradation, groundwater overdraft, land subsidence, and other water-related insecurities; and further degradation of forests, rangelands, wetlands, flood plains, and riparian ecosystems, which contributes to even greater vulnerabilities for the very people and resources whom our professions seek to serve.
Greater integration of the land and water sectors will better equip professionals in both to address critical challenges they repeatedly confront.
The urgent need to connect land management with water management is exacerbated by economic development patterns that are incompatible with local land and water resources; by migration and the geographic concentration of growing populations in areas facing water insecurities; and by climate change impacts. Greater integration of the land and water sectors will better equip professionals in both to address critical challenges they repeatedly confront.
We invite AWIS members to connect with water resources professionals and students through our local networking opportunities and AWRA e-news. Please sign up today, and check us out online here. Together, we’ll explore the connection between land and water and its crucial impact on policy, program, and practice.