UMBC a partner in $12M NSF award for sustainability research

Cooperative agreement creates Urban Water Innovation Network

Note: This story has also been covered by the Daily Record, as detailed by this post in UMBC Insights.

UMBC is a founding member of a new consortium of 14 U.S. academic institutions and key partners addressing challenges that threaten urban water systems in the United States and around the world. With support from a $12 million cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation, Colorado State University is leading a collaborative effort to establish the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN). The mission of UWIN is to create technological, institutional, and management solutions to help communities increase resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises. 

Claire Welty, professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education at UMBC, serves as the associate director of research for the UWIN project. Other UMBC faculty involved with UWIN include Professors Andrew Miller and Christopher Swan of the department of geography and environmental systems. The UWIN project takes advantage of UMBC’s strong research and educational programs in urban water, including stormwater management and green infrastructure, water quality control, groundwater-surface water interactions, urban flood dynamics, and urban biodiversity.

According to the 2014 Global Risks Perception Survey by the World Economic Forum, water crises are the top global risk to the viability of communities throughout the world. From the crippling droughts and water shortages in the West to the devastating floods in the East and South, water systems in the U.S. have been impacted by changes in climate, demographics, and other pressures. Our reliance on water is why Americans express greater concern about threats to water than about any other environmental issue and why more than half of all Americans worry a great deal about it, according to the latest Gallup poll of environmental concerns.

Extreme events and global climate change can have profound impacts on water security, shattering the most vulnerable communities and instilling enormous costs on governments and economies. Effective response to these challenges requires transitioning to both technological and management solutions that protect water systems from pressures and enhance their resilience.

The vision of UWIN is to create an enduring research network for integrated water systems and to cultivate champions of innovation for water-sensitive urban design and resilient cities. The integrated research, outreach, education and participatory approach of UWIN will produce a toolbox of sustainable solutions by simultaneously minimizing pressures, enhancing resilience to extreme events, and maximizing co-benefits. These benefits will reverberate across other systems, such as urban ecosystems, economies and arrangements for environmental justice and social equity.

The network will establish six highly connected regional urban water sustainability hubs in densely populated regions across the nation to serve as innovation centers, helping communities transition to sustainable management of water resources. Strategic partnerships and engagement with other prominent U.S. and international networks will extend UWIN’s reach to more than 100 cities around the world. Key UWIN partners and collaborators include the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities (NETWERC H2O).

This innovative and adaptive research approach will ultimately produce an Urban Water Sustainability Blueprint, outlining effects and tradeoffs associated with sustainable solutions for cities of all sizes. It will also provide steps and guidance for action based on the collective knowledge gained by the research and the collaborative approach of the SRN. The Blueprint will be rigorously vetted by regional stakeholders across the U.S. and the global urban water community.

The UWIN consortium includes:

  • Colorado State University
  • Arizona State University
  • Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
  • Florida International University
  • Howard University
  • Oregon State University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California-Berkeley
  • University of California-Riverside
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Miami
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Pennsylvania


For more information on the project, contact UWIN Coordinator Meagan Smith at To reach UMBC faculty involved UWIN, contact Director of Communications Dinah Winnick at

Posted: July 31, 2015, 3:15 PM