SAN MARCOS – The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, in partnership with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, has created the Mitchell L. Mathis Program for Environmental Water Economics (watereconomics.org) to contribute to learning and research on the economics of water availability and quality and its impact on the economy.
“Ensuring adequate supplies of clean water for Texas’ economic growth, agriculture and environment will be the defining natural resource issue of the 21st century,” said Robert E. Mace, executive director of The Meadows Center. “We are very excited about this program and believe it will create the ability for Texas State and the Meadows Center to contribute sound economic input into decision-making related to water resource management and nurture a new generation of water resource economics practitioners.”
The joint program will be led by David Yoskowitz, senior executive director of the Harte Research Institute, who will serve as the inaugural scholar to support the program’s development and application of new research methods toward water management and planning directed at resolution of water problems.
The program will bring the next generation of socio-economic tools, education, and outreach to address current water issues, and future challenges, in a holistic manner.
“The solutions that are needed for the most pressing water challenges do not rest in the domain of one discipline or group. I am hopeful that by bringing together the energy harnessed in the academic, philanthropic, non-governmental organization and agency communities that Texas can continue to evolve its leadership in this area,” Yoskowitz said. “The Mitchell L. Mathis Program for Environmental Water Economics can play an important role in this integrated approach.”
Yoskowitz has worked in the area of environmental and water economics for more than two decades. He has been with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for 18 years, holding both faculty and administrative positions on campus, and served as the chief economist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2014 to 2015.
Funding for the program was provided through generous contributions from The Meadows Foundation, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation as well as matching funds from the Texas Research Incentive Program.
“We are proud to support the creation of this program that honors a luminary and friend of the Foundation,” said Mike McCoy, senior program officer for the Meadows Foundation. “With a multi-disciplinary focus on the science, policy and economics of sustainable water management, it will offer transformative opportunities to prepare students with new skills for creating effective solutions to the world’s water problems.”
“Reliable information about the economic importance and value of water has long been elusive and too frequently not considered in decision-making,” said Emily R. Warren, water program officer for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. “The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation believes this program, named after our colleague Mitchell L. Mathis, will bridge a critical gap and help move Texas toward a sustainable water future.”
The Mathis Program for Environmental Water Economics is named after the distinguished environment and resource economist Mitchell L. Mathis, who died in 2005.
Mathis brought the important socio-economic aspects of water resource management to light with cutting edge environmental economics work. His work contributed important insights to the field of resource economics and the economic methodologies used to value natural resources and ecosystem services.
His early career focused on working in remote communities in Latin America and Northeast Brazil to understand how they use traditions and norms to govern scarce water resources.
During his tenure at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) Mathis was a principal investigator of a National Science Foundation-funded, bi-national integrated assessment of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo.
The study produced a novel plan for balancing economic opportunity with water scarcity.
With financial support from the Meadows Foundation and the Houston Endowment, he established and led HARC’s Valuing Nature in Texas program that focused on ensuring water, and the ecosystem services it provides, was adequately valued so that better decisions about water use for the environment could be made.
Mathis was instrumental in promoting the protection of freshwater inflows as a member of the science advisory committee of the Study Commission on Water for Environmental Flows established by Senate Bill 1639 during the 78th Legislative Session.
Mathis earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. He died of colon cancer at 42 on July 18, 2005, three weeks after the birth of his only child, Elena Fe Mathis.
His wife, Marilu Hastings, is the chief innovation and strategy officer at the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
“Mitch was an award-winning teacher of economics and English as a second language. One of the highlights of his life was educating the next generation of economists about the value of natural resources. It was of this work that he was most proud,” said Hastings. “Our families are deeply grateful to the Meadows Foundation, the Mitchell Foundation, Harte Research Institute, and The Meadows Center for remembering Mitch and honoring his work with the Mathis Program for Environmental Water Economics.”