SAN MARCOS – Texas State University has received a $500,000 grant from the Meadows Foundation to increase the research capacity of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment to address climate change.
The grant will enable The Meadows Center to begin developing a large-scale program that can supply decision-makers with crucial climate change information so they can make scientifically informed decisions about how climate change is affecting their water resources, and what their options are for building resiliency against those effects.
“To achieve that broad goal, one of the things we need to do is have conversations with scientists and stakeholders,” said Robert Mace, executive director, and chief water policy officer for The Meadows Center. “Climate change is touching everything associated with water, whether it’s water supplies, environmental flows, spring flows—we’re seeing those impacts and expecting more change in the future.”
One of the challenges is developing actionable climate change data for Texas. Although much climate change research exists, the favored scientific models are global in terms of reach and detail.
In order for that information to be usable, it has to undergo a process called downscaling so it may be applied to a regional level.
There are many different approaches to downscaling, however, and choosing the best approach for Texas’ needs is the first step of the process.
“One of our initial goals with this project is to bring climate scientists together to talk about what are the standards, what is the approach we should follow when we do that downscaling,” Mace said. “Right now, a lot of the climate work that’s being done in Texas is done on a specific watershed or done for a city. This research is being done by different experts and so is a mish-mash of approaches and techniques.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a consistent approach applied across the state where it’s downscaled. Then that information will be used to investigate what climate change means for our surface water supplies, to help manage the waters in our rivers and our reservoirs as well as quantifying how much water is in our aquifers,” he said. “There are various techniques and approaches you can use to make those analyses and estimates. Bringing groups of scientists and stakeholders together and talk about what’s the best way for the state to have consistent methodology will have long-term benefits.”
Other plans include surveys of communities, stakeholders, and decision-makers to determine what their most crucial information needs are, so that The Meadows Center can tailor its planning tools in support to those needs.
A Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills-aligned climate change educational curriculum is in the planning stages. Longer-term, Mace hopes to position The Meadows Center to conduct policy analysis for the state to better manage water resources and plan for future flooding events.
“We’re thankful for the support of the Meadows Foundation as well as their leadership on this issue and being willing to invest in the Meadows Center and Texas State to make significant advances in the policy realm on climate change in Texas,” Mace said.