Water Security

The Water Security Initiative (WSI) seeks to provide data-driven, analytically sound assessments of water security based on consideration of the coupled natural-human systems.  We develop and use effective metrics, models, and analytics of the coupled systems to improve society’s long-term water challenges.  The Water Initiative targets key threats to water security, including poverty, climate change, governance and social marginalization, and we seek to understand the complex dynamics of coupled social and environmental systems impacted by challenges, such as decreasing supplies of potable water, in the coming years.
Our mission is unique in that this initiative seeks to establish a robust, cross-regional comparative context in which to develop key analytics and standardized assessments to benchmark current water security situations at multiple scales. We also seek to develop water insecurity models and evaluate progress and performance of policy, program, and technical interventions and evaluate how these impact the natural and human systems.  Critical to the goals of the initiative is to create a research and teaching community to support individual research water security interests and foster teams that can also address the coupled human and natural processes related to questions of water security for present and future sustainable needs based on a fundamental understanding of the hydrological cycle and their environmental impacts.

Contributing Members

GEOSCIENCES: Wendy Jepson (Lead, GEOG); Kathleen O’Reilly (GEOG); Peter Knappett (G&G); Hongbin Zhan (G&G); Judy Nunez (Dean’s Office) 
AGRICULTURE: Ari Michelson (AgriLife); Georgianne Moore
BUSH SCHOOL: Kent Portney; Mary Hilderbrand
LAW SCHOOL: Gabriel Eckstein; Vanessa Casado-Perez
LIBERAL ARTS: Manuel Teodoro
PUBLIC HEALTH: Jeniffer Horney; Genny Carrillo
ENGINEERING: Kelly Brumbelow

Discovery Initiative Highlights


The Water Security Initiative strives to expand and elevate research endeavors in the following arenas:
  • Advance research in basic and applied geosciences, in particularly the hydrological sciences over multiple temporal and spatial scales.
  • Elevate the impact of our research, especially that which directly benefits society and enhances economic well-being through improved outreach and engagement.
  • Establish major multidisciplinary research initiatives that distinguish the college and university
  • Strengthen the college’s research connectivity

Water insecurity operates at multiple scales --from the household to watersheds, from countries to the globe. Faculty researchers address these complex, spatially interconnected problems under three broad themes: (1) water and sanitation for human & community well-being; (2) water governance; and (3) hydro-environmental systems. Under each theme, diverse set of research questions inform the direction and approaches taken to address the key challenges presented by water insecurity. Our objective is that the signature program will facilitate the necessary research opportunities in the physical and social sciences at the key interface or coupling of these dimensions.

Current and Planned Activities
  1. “Initial Workshop on the Hydrogeochemistry of Groundwater Systems” at University of Guanajuato, January 13-18, 2017. Dr. Knappett co-organized and led this workshop with Dr. Li at the University of Guanajuato. Over 50 participants attended from the United States Geological Survey, the University of Coruna and the University of Catalonia, Spain, Kansas State University, Monterrey Tech. and UNAM Mexico City, Mexico.  
  2. “Workshop on Household Water Insecurity Metrics” (September 2016, TAMU) facilitated two papers (in Water Security), and several grant initiatives are developing out of the meeting.  Follow up meetings scheduled for August 2017 at Northwestern University and June 2018 at Arizona State University. The August 2017 meeting will result in a social scientific community consensus document on survey and metrics to be integrated as the “gold standard” for assessments and research on household-level water insecurity.  
  3. TAMU Water Security Research Symposia, for on campus networking (October 2017). 
  4. Dr. Portney and Dr. Eckstein have created a US-Mexico Transboundary research group that addresses conflict and cooperation on transboundary groundwater governance, and collaborate with Mexican institutions.
  5. Workshops and activities target key multi-disciplinary research programs (e.g. NSF PIRE, NRT, and CNH programs) to facilitate cutting-edge research.
  6. Special Issue, Geoforum, “Critical Perspectives on Water Insecurity” will publish several papers that have been developed over the past year, culminating in a final workshop (full papers) for Fall 2018, in collaboration with the Water Security Centre, University of East Anglia (UK).

Current and Pending External Research Collaborations
  1. National Science Foundation (NSF), “Urban Water Provisioning Systems and Household Water Insecurity” (2016-2019)
  2. TAMU-CONACYT proposal, “Health impacts of household water insecurity” with Drs. Genny Carillo (TAMU SPH), (due Feb 2017)
  3. Pilot Project, “Household water insecurity and tourism conflicts:  Costa Rica and Nicaragua comparative study” (With Matthew Taylor, University of Denver)
For more information visit the Geosciences Water Security Page


WSI faculty activities currently continue one of the Institute's core goals to provide active learning opportunitites for TAMU students.
  1. Enhance existing and explore compelling interdisciplinary degree programs.
  2. Expand the diversity and number of courses providing high impact learning.
  3. Ensure that students are acquiring the knowledge, skills and research practices to be competitive and effective in careers and to meet stakeholder expectations.

Current Activities
  1. New stacked Special Topics Course (GEOG 689/WMHS 689/GEOG 489) on Water Security has been approved (Fall 2017) for the graduate students in the Water Program and undergraduates in Environmental Geosciences Program and Geography. The intent is to ‘test run’ the syllabus and identify how it can best fit within existing curriculum. The course provides a needed social science course in the WMHS and ENVP curricula (supporting the new “Water” theme).
  2. Water security theme was integrated in a new application to NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for the ongoing tropical forest eco-hydrology project at the Texas A&M Soltis Center. We will know late February 2017 if the grant was awarded (PI Georgianne Moore, ESSM).
  3. WSI has provided guidance and resources to continue and enhance the new College’s service-learning course sequence, beginning with the First-Year Seminar followed by the GEOS 489 to work with the Wine-to-Water NGO and community-based water management committees (ASADAS) in communities surrounding the Texas A&M Soltis Center.  Student would continue to participate in WASH service with an additional research activity: conducting the household water insecurity survey in three communities (San Isidro, San Pedro, and Chachagua) designed for reports to the ASADAS and a longitudinal study (4 to 5-year annual collection). 
  4. Study Abroad to Costa Rica on the theme “Water Security Challenges in Central America.”  An application will be submitted for Summer 2018 
  5. Study Abroad to Guanajuato, Mexico on the theme “Field Methods in Environmental Geosciences” will take place January 31-August 13, 2017. In this course the students will analyze the competing demands for potable groundwater by farms, factories and households while measuring components of the hydrologic cycle.

International Engagement and Activities

The WSI currently has several international projects and collaborative efforts
  1. United Kingdom: Faculty (Jepson) are actively developing connections with existing international water security programs, including the International Water Security Network (Bristol, UK), Water Security Centre (University of East Anglia, UK), and Oxford Water Centre (UK). The goal is to develop MOUs and encourage individual collaborations. 
  2. Costa Rica: Maintain the College’s presence in the Soltis Center and intensify activities in Costa Rica, build institutional connections with Costa Rican partners, and expand activities in other Central American countries around the theme of water security.
  3. Nicaragua: At the initial stages of a project (IRB submission) that examines household water insecurity and groundwater use with colleagues at the University of Denver.
  4. Mexico: US-Mexico Transboundary water group actively collaborating with Mexican institutions;
  5. Mexico: Proposal to TAMU-CONACYT program with Public Health and (“Health impacts of water insecurity in Torreon, Mexico”)
  6. Mexico: Studying long term changes to arsenic and fluoride concentrations in groundwater in the Independence Basin in Guanajuato State. Partners include the University of Guanajuato and Monterrey Tech. 
  7. Brazil: Build on existing collaborations with Brazilian institutions (UFC) to support research and student exchanges (currently one PhD student visiting), UFC as Fulbright partner institution, and TAMU faculty as senior personnel for recently approved CNPq grant on climate change, human security and livelihood in Brazil. We have a current MOU with UFC.
  8. Bangladesh: Long-term Mapping and Modeling the drawdown cone in the aquifer underlying the City of Dhaka and studying its implications for access of rural people to low arsenic drinking water. Partner institutions include Columbia University and the University of Dhaka.
  9. India: Sanitation security project (K. O’Reilly) located in multiple sites across the region.


Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Affiliations

Wine-to-Water: WTW works with CLGE on the service learning activities in Costa Rica.  Students have started their own chapter of WTW as an outcome of this experience, and currently they are planning a trip to Haiti. We hope to develop our collaboration as it related to research opportunities in other countries.  

The Center for Water Security and Cooperation: CWSC is a think tank located in Washington DC.  The CWSC is the only nonprofit based in the United States solely dedicated to the advancement of water security and the nonpartisan, impartial analysis and improvement of water law. CWSC seek partnership with two projects: (1) RENEWAL for Latin America, a database for legal and institutional water governance frameworks with a pilot project in Costa Rica and in affiliation with the TAMU Soltis Center (current RENEWAL for Africa funded by The World Bank); and (2) Support and engage the CWSC’s initiative “Water Security Challenge” with the purpose of developing a legal framework that can be adopted by countries to achieve water security (to be held as parallel meetings to the World Water Congress, World Water Forum, and Stockholm Water Week).