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date: 23 April 2024

Smart One Water: An Integrated Approach for the Next Generation of Sustainable and Resilient Water Systemslocked

Smart One Water: An Integrated Approach for the Next Generation of Sustainable and Resilient Water Systemslocked

  • Sunil K. Sinha, Sunil K. SinhaVirginia Tech
  • Meghna Babbar-Sebens, Meghna Babbar-SebensOregon State University
  • David Dzombak, David DzombakCarnegie Mellon University
  • Paolo Gardoni, Paolo GardoniUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bevlee Watford, Bevlee WatfordVirginia Tech
  • Glenda Scales, Glenda ScalesVirginia Tech
  • Neil Grigg, Neil GriggColorado State University
  • Edgar Westerhof, Edgar WesterhofArcadis
  • Kenneth ThompsonKenneth ThompsonJacobs Engineering Group Incorporation
  •  and Melissa MeekerMelissa MeekerThe Water Tower

Summary

Quality of life for all people and communities is directly linked to the availability of clean and abundant water. Natural and built water systems are threatened by crumbling infrastructure, floods, drought, storms, wildfires, sea-level rise, population growth, cybersecurity breaches, and pollution, often in combination. Marginalized communities feel the worst impacts, and responses are hampered by fragmented and antiquated governance and management practices. A standing grand challenge for the water sector is transitioning society to a future where current silos are transformed into a significantly more efficient, effective, and equitable One Water system-of-systems paradigm—in other words, a future where communities are able to integrate the governance and management of natural and engineered water systems at all scales of decision-making in a river basin. Innovation in digital technologies that connect data, people, and organizations can be game changers in addressing this societal grand challenge. It is envisioned that advancing digital capabilities in the water sector will require a Smart One Water approach, one that builds upon new technologies and research advancements in multiple disciplines, including those in engineering, computer science, and social science. However, several fundamental knowledge gaps at the nexus of physical, social, and cyber sciences currently exist on how a nationwide Smart One Water approach can be created, operationalized, and maintained. Convergent research is needed to investigate these gaps and improve our current understanding of Smart One Water approaches, including the costs, risks, and benefits to diverse communities in the rural-to-urban continuum.

At its core, implementing the Smart One Water approach requires a science-based, stakeholder-driven, and artificial intelligence (AI)–enabled cyberinfrastructure platform, one that can provide a robust framework to support networks of river-basin collaborations. We refer to this envisioned cyberinfrastructure foundation as the digital research and operational platform (DROP). DROP is envisioned to exploit advances in data analytics, machine learning, information, communication, and decision support technologies for the management of One Water systems via AI-enabled digital twins of river-basin systems. Deploying DROP at a large-basin scale requires an understanding of (a) physical water systems (natural and engineered) at the basin scale, which interact with each other in a dynamic environment affected by climate change and other societal trends and whose data, functions, and processes must be integrated to create digital twins of river basins; (b) the social aspects of One Water systems by understanding the values and perspectives of stakeholders, costs and benefits of water management practices and decisions, and the specific needs of disadvantaged populations in river basin communities; (c) approaches for developing and deploying the digital technologies, analytics, and AI required to efficiently operate and manage Smart One Water systems in small to large communities; (d) strategies for training and advancing the next-generation workforce who have expertise on cyber, physical, and social aspects of One Water systems; and (e) lessons learned from testing and evaluating DROP in diverse testbeds.

The article describes a strategic plan for operationalizing Smart One Water management and governance in the United States. The plan is based on five foundational pillars: (a) river-basin scale governance, (b) workforce development, (c) innovation ecosystem, (d) diversity and inclusion, and (e) stakeholder engagement. Workshops were conducted for each foundational pillar among diverse stakeholders representing federal, state, and local governments; utilities; industry; nongovernmental organizations; academics; and the general public. The workshops confirmed the strong desire of water communities to embrace, integrate, and grow the Smart One Water approach. Recommendations were generated for using the foundational pillars to guide strategic plans to implement a national-scale Smart One Water program and facilitate its adoption by communities in the United States, with global applications to follow.

Subjects

  • Management and Planning

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