The clock is ticking on the world’s freshwater supply. Yadu Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, is concerned that with more than seven billion people on the planet, it is time to rethink how we use and manage freshwater systems.
Pokhrel will use a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to continue his work in water systems management. The grant begins on June 1, 2018.
“The goal of this project is to advance the research and education of water resource sustainability in managed land-water systems,” Pokhrel said. “The project will use the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia as a testbed, where climate change, river flow alterations by proliferating hydropower dams and seawater intrusion due to sea level rise are directly affecting agricultural systems, fisheries and human livelihoods.”
The team will study the potential of a suite of hydrological, agricultural and ecological models to systematically examine trade-offs between hydropower and irrigation upstream for food and energy production and adverse downstream effects on rivers, floodplains and groundwater systems.
This project will be implemented in the Mekong River Basin, and the long-term goal is to apply the newly developed modeling framework to other regions, such as the Great Plains and California Central Valley. These are areas with declining surface and groundwater systems and adverse impacts of climate change are posing serious threats to sustainable water supply and food production.
“It’s just a matter of time before declining water supplies and unsustainable management will undermine our ability to ensure adequate supply of food, energy and water for the rapidly growing global population,” he noted.
For more information about the National Science Foundation abstract, click here.
Pokhrel’s CAREER Award is a prestigious recognition of his international advocacy, University Distinguished Professor Venkatesh Kodur said.
“This award is particularly noteworthy because few NSF CAREER Awards are presented in civil and environmental engineering based on the kind of research conducted in our academic areas,” he said. “Yadu’s award is a first for our department and actually rather rare in the entire country. It honors the important work he is doing to study resource sustainability around the world.”
Pokhrel is the 16th College of Engineering faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER Award since 2010 and the third in 2018. It is the first for the civil and environmental engineering department. NSF CAREER Awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education. It is among NSF’s most prestigious honors.
Pokhrel is originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, where he studied civil engineering. He joined MSU in August 2014.
In 2011, he earned a doctorate degree in civil engineering at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Prior to joining MSU, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Hokkaido University, Japan, for six months before moving to Rutgers University, where he worked as a research associate from 2012 to 2014 and then as an assistant research professor from April-August 2014.
For more on his water research at MSU, visit the Multi-Scale Hydrological Modeling Lab.