Researchers to address world’s water worries

The UTD geosciences department is funneling together manpower and research to find solutions to ease demands for natural water resources by the world’s ballooning population.

A new class co-taught by Matt Leybourne, assistant geosciences professor, and Nate Miller, research scientist at UTD’s Center for Lithospheric Studies, will provide students with a framework for understanding local and regional water resource issues within Texas and the greater Southwestern United States.

“Students have a new opportunity to study natural science in the context of a local and regional theme of rapidly growing importance,” Miller said.

UTD researchers and students work locally and globally, from White Rock Creek and Lake Texoma to Chile, Egypt, Nepal and Canada.

The United States has worked for the past 50 years to expand agricultural production in arid climates. Towards that goal, UTD geoscientists have developed satellite and underground imaging techniques to optimize water usage and simplify the political debates over water rights.

Developing countries now face similar political struggles to those that confronted the United States 50 years ago and continue to face today. Their demand for water exceeds available supply and UTD researchers lend their assistance, said Tom Brikowski, associate professor of geosciences.

The Rio Grande is a dry riverbed for an extended section south of Soccorro because a dam diverts all of the water into irrigation channels, according to the Rio Grande/ Rio Bravo Basin Coalition.

The situation on the Rio Grande is politically not so different from the Egyptian problems halfway around the world.

Brikowski has worked hand-in-hand with Abdalla Faid in the Egyptian satellite-monitoring directorate in order to expand available land on the banks of the Nile for agricultural production.

As the agricultural population along the Nile expands, young farmers looking to cultivate plots of their own find themselves either waiting to inherit the family farm or choosing a less desirable location away from the traditional flood plain, Brikowski said.

To create new farmland, Egyptian agriculturists have pumped water uphill to the surrounding lands for irrigation, but the inevitable runoff into the river bottom leaves the traditional sites saturated with water, damaging crop growth, Brikowski said.

Egyptian scientists have studied the problem and taken extensive localized data, but do not have the current technology available in the US to analyze it. Enter Brikowski.

“It is one of those matches made in heaven,” he said.

Brikowski uses UTD computers to analyze Egyptian data.

This takes the numbers and makes them visually accessible, turning Egyptian data into charts of seepage, runoff and other subterranean water movement to help find solutions to solve the problem.

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