Socio-Hydrology Workshop Explores the New Science of People and Water

As the world's population increases and water supply decreases, the complex issue of freshwater security is becoming an increasingly important problem to solve. A workshop on August 28-30, supported by Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy, a strategic initiative at Beckman, aims to open up this discussion and contemplate solutions. 

The availability of water is one of the world’s most pressing challenges. The topic is so complex and multi-faceted that scientists have proposed a new science to integrate the perspectives of the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities—the science of socio-hydrology. Some of the world’s foremost experts in the various issues surrounding freshwater security will gather on the University of Illinois campus Aug. 28-30 for the workshop Advancing Socio-Hydrology, a New Science of People and Water. It will be presented at the Beckman Institute by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), with the support of Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), a strategic initiative of the Beckman Institute. Jesse Ribot heads this initiative.

“The water problems that we face are complex, such as climate change, ecosystem and human health, flood prevention and mitigation, and food security,” said CEE Assistant Professor Megan Konar, who organized the workshop with CEE professors Murugesu Sivapalan and Ximing Cai. “Despite the urgency of these problems, contemporary scholarship on water has remained fragmented by disciplinary boundaries. For this reason, a new, use-inspired science of water that explicitly includes the bi-directional feedbacks between human and water systems across spatial and temporal scales is needed.”

The workshop will be structured around six half-day sessions, which will include formal presentations, moderated discussions, and focused group activities. Topics include Understanding Coupled Human-Water Systems; Implication for Water Resources Management; Dynamics of Coupled Human-Water Systems—Watershed Scale; Dynamics of Coupled Human-Water Systems—Regional and Global Scales; Case Studies and Approaches to Socio-hydrological Modeling; and Moving forward: Towards an Illinois Socio-Hydrology Declaration.

The participants will include more than 20 external researchers, both international and national, and more than 20 University of Illinois researchers, plus a number of graduate students. Among the more than 30 speakers are Günter Blöschl, the Vienna University of Technology, Austria; James Wescoat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Chris Scott, University of Arizona.

The public is welcome. More information on the schedule, technical program, and participants is available online.