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GLIN==> Michigan Tech, Yale Will Study Great Lakes Water

Michigan Tech, Yale Will Study Great Lakes Water
For more information on this story contact:
Email: Jennifer Donovan
Phone: 906-487-4521


Without water, the world as we know it would grind to a halt. Individuals,
animals and plants, farmers and manufacturers all rely on water-for
production, for transportation, for life itself. But what is water's real
and future value to our economy and society?

Scientists at Michigan Technological University and Yale University have
received a grant of nearly $2 million from the National Science Foundation
to analyze the quantity, quality and availability of water in the Great
Lakes region. The universities will collaborate on the interdisciplinary
research over the next five years.

"We will gather data, analyze it and try to predict what could happen to
water use and water quality over the next 10, 20 or 30 years," said Alex
Mayer, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, part of
the University's Sustainable Futures Institute. "This research is a good fit
for Michigan Tech; the Great Lakes are our backyard."

Mayer's co-investigators at Michigan Tech are Qiong Zhang, a senior research
engineer and operations manager of the Sustainable Futures Institute; James
Mihelcic, a professor of civil and environmental engineering; and David
Watkins, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"Interdisciplinary research on pressing environmental problems is one of the
things that Michigan Tech does best," said David Reed, vice president for
research. "We are very proud to receive this grant for collaborative
research with Yale."

Co-investigators at Yale are Julie Zimmerman, assistant director for
research at the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, and Sheila
Olmstead from Yale's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

The researchers will develop computer models that describe the flow of water
in the Great Lakes watershed, including the lakes themselves, rivers and
streams that feed the lakes and groundwater. They will also work to discover
where and how the water is being used.

As people leave the cities and move to the suburbs and the country, they
affect the water cycle, Mayer pointed out. "Changing from cropland to paved
roads means more runoff and less water in the ground," he explained.

Another important but often-overlooked factor is the role of energy in water
use. "It requires a significant use of energy on a large scale to get water
from its source to its use," Mayer said, "and with the cost of energy going
up and up, it's an important consideration."

Many people think that the Great Lakes contain an infinite amount of water.
"But the replacement or renewal rate is very low," said Mayer. Water that
evaporates or flows into outlets is replaced at a rate of less than 1
percent per year. "That's like having the bathtub draining faster than the
faucet can run," Mayer remarked.

Mayer hopes the research will produce a model for evaluating the quantity,
quality and cost of water that can be applied all over the world. "The Great
Lakes are water-rich, but what we learn will be applicable where there is
less water and more use, such as the Sonoran desert in Mexico," the
professor of geological and mining engineering and sciences said.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university,
conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to
create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech
offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in
engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computer sciences,
technology, business and economics, natural sciences, arts, humanities and
social sciences.

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