Research News

New Researchers at the Columbia Water Center

2011-01-18

The Columbia Water Center, in collaboration with other Earth Institute units and external partners, is leading intellectual inquiry into the assessment, understanding and resolution of the potentially global crisis of freshwater scarcity. Founded in 2008, the Water Center was established for the purpose of studying the diminishing levels of fresh water and creating innovative sustainable and global solutions. The Columbia Water Center engages in diverse projects worldwide--from helping in-need communities design and build appropriate water infrastructure development, to applied regional climate modeling and prediction, to research and policy recommendations on the intersection between water science and public policy.

As the global water crisis becomes increasingly urgent, the Earth Institute’s Columbia Water Center is building its capacity to address the problem.  Over the summer, the Center hired four new staff members, who are supporting different aspects of the organization’s work.  Three researchers have been brought in to strengthen the Center’s PepsiCo Foundation funded initiatives in India and Mali, and to develop new program initiatives.  A new Assistant Director with years of management experience is helping to guide the direction of the organization and support project development.   
 
According to Columbia Water Center Director Upmanu Lall:  “Addressing water scarcity requires an interdisciplinary approach, and the Columbia Water Center is very pleased with its recent additions in expertise to cover environmental hydraulics and hydrology, policy and regulatory issues, hydroclimatology, geography and social sciences, and irrigation engineering/agricultural modeling. In collaboration with the other centers at the Earth Institute we are now exceptionally strong in looking at the interlinked challenges of  planetary sustainability related to water, food, agriculture, energy and climate. The breadth of our contributions and engagement continues to increase on local issues (e.g., Delaware River), national issues (US water policy), developing countries (Asia, Africa, South America) and in the global dialogue on water.   We look forward to helping develop the science and applications with the new researchers and their extended network of colleagues at other institutions.”

The new researchers:

Abdrabbo Abdel-Azim A. Shehata (Abdo), raised and educated in Egypt, came to the Water Center from Kansas State University where he was a Senior Scientist and Research Irrigation Engineer. Abdo brings 17-years of experience in agricultural water and energy management, irrigation systems and technology, and renewable energy applications. He has a PhD in microirrigation systems for crop production from Minufiya University, Egypt, advanced studies in sustainable agriculture development from Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, Bari – Italy, and has completed Post Doctorate Studies in renewable energy applications for supplying services to rural areas and remote communities from the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece. At the Columbia Water Center Abdo will be working on the Pepsico Foundation project, as the lead irrigation planner and designer in Mali, where he will be supervising the local team that is working to empower rural women by increasing their plot size, by making changes in the irrigation technology which they use, and by working to form a water users’ association which among other jobs will oversee operation and maintenance of the irrigation system. Moreover, he will openly collaborate with researchers at the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program and the International Research Institute (IRI).  Abdo will also be involved in designing five new proposals, one about climate change and the future of the Nile basin countries, one about developing a global model for optimum irrigation water management  using data from the U.S., Egypt and India, one about low-cost irrigation systems for food security in sub-Saharan Africa, one about integrated renewable energy applications for pumping water and desalination, and one about  applications of information and communication technologies (ICT) in water management.

Kathleen Callahan joins the Water Center having already served on the faculty of the Master in Public Affairs in Environmental Science and Policy School of International Affairs for the last 4 years. She joined the Water Center in July 2010.  She comes with 35 years of experience in the EPA, having joined the agency at its start up in 1971 and eventually serving   in multiple management and executive positions, including the senior executive responsible for the EPA Region 2 response to environmental impacts resulting from the terrorist attack on the  World Trade Center. In November of 2003, Callahan was appointed Region 2 Deputy Regional Administrator, and she served as Acting Regional Administrator between  November 2004 and August 2005. Callahan holds a BA from Hunter College of the City University of New York, Callahan has served on a number of national policy work groups on topics  including human resource development, managerial excellence, and Superfund  reauthorization.
At the Water Center, Callahan will enhance the depth of management, will help with federal grant opportunities and with donor-related support and will be especially involved in broadening the reach of the Center in addition to the issues in the developing world,  “trying to strengthen our engagement domestically in areas such as water quantity and quality and related issues.”

Naresh Devineni is a postdoctoral research scientist who joined the Columbia Water Center in August. He is working on assessment of water stress across all of India. Using climate data and the data reported by the governments of Indian states on current cropping patterns, he is analyzing the use of ground water by farmers, who have begun pumping groundwater at an unsustainable rate as a byproduct of the cheap or free electricity subsidized by the government. Beyond his analysis he is looking at alternative ways to reduce the necessity of storage thereby reducing the water stress through changing the crops that are grown to favor less water demanding varieties. Devineni received his doctorate from North Carolina State University in Civil Engineering with a focus in water resources and hydrology. He has enjoyed the opportunity to explore the fields of economics and energy in the work he is doing for the Water Center.

Shama Perveen is associate research scientist at the Columbia Water Center. Her areas of particular interest are integrated water resources management and policy; GIS modeling; vulnerability at multiple geographic scales; global change and impact; industrial ecology and sustainable development. Shama came to the Water Center from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she was a visiting assistant professor at the School of Environmental and Public Affairs. She received her doctorate from University of South Carolina in Geography with a specialization in the analysis and assessment of environmental, hydrologic and socio-economic data using geographic information systems (GIS). She has taught several undergraduate and graduate courses in environment and development and environmental science, including water resources, physical geography, environmental law and policy, and cartography. Before coming to the US, Shama worked at the Centre for Development and Environment Policy at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM) researching water resources.

At the Columbia Water Center, Shama is currently working on analyses and assessments of the water crises facing India. The project combines data on climate variability over a century time scale with current water demands to develop a nationwide, robust index for water stress and the need for developing storage infrastructures. Modeling, overlay and the combination of various information in the GIS platform provides a spatially informed basis for targeting particularly vulnerable sectors within the nation. Results can in turn serve as a basis for targeting policy interventions. This work will be extended to cover other regions globally to inform localized measures for water conservation as well as informing the water risks faced by business operating nationally as well as internationally.