People depend on sufficient and clean freshwater. However, sufficient and clean freshwater depends on the decisions people make.
Water is made vulnerable by the changes in how we use land—how and what we build on it, how and what we farm on it, and what policies we create to govern it. Changes in our climate also affect the quality and supply of this precious resource, now and for generations to come.
The array of possible changes creates a host of uncertainties for both water and people.
The Water Sustainability and Climate Project (WSC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was an integrated effort to understand how water and the many other benefits people derive from nature could change over time. The project focused on the Yahara Watershed in southern Wisconsin, a place that is both unique and representative of other places in the Upper Midwest.
WSC’s diverse team of scientists sought to shed light on the possible ecological and social outcomes of potential pathways of change in Yahara. The following questions guided their research:
- In light of a changing climate, how do the different ways people use and manage land and water affect the resilience and sensitivity of ecosystem services, or the benefits people derive from nature?
- How could regional governance adapt to better meet people's diverse land and water needs?
- How could changes in water and climate affect human well-being over time? Where are the vulnerabilities and the opportunities?
Their findings will inform the effort to keep the Yahara Watershed a resilient place to live, work and play.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project was part of an endeavor to understand the interactions between water, climate, land use, infrastructure, and ecosystems through place-based research and innovative methods.
While a five-year project (2011-2016), the research and impacts that come of WSC will extend beyond that time frame and the Yahara Watershed.