Campus Life

USU Grad Student Receives National Water Research Institute Fellowship

Utah State University graduate student Lisa Welsh is the recipient of a 2010 National Water Research Institute Graduate Fellowship. A doctoral student majoring in human dimensions of ecosystem science and management in USU’s Department of Environment and Society, Welsh is among four awardees selected from more than 80 applicants in the national competition.
The fellowship, which consists of a $5,000 award each year for two years, supports Welsh’s research project “Water Policy Designs to Address Societal Transitions.”
“My research examines the foundational rules for allocating scarce water supplies in the Intermountain West and addresses current debates on how to meet the challenges of providing water in changing societal contexts,” says Welsh, who conducts research with ENVS faculty mentor Joanna Endter-Wada.
A policy analysis, Welsh’s project is divided into three separate case studies.
In one study, Welsh examines the role of technology in influencing how decision makers allocate water during a drought period. She is investigating user response to the USU-led Bear River Watershed Information System, which provides real-time information for citizens, agricultural producers and resource managers of the 7,500-square-mile basin that includes portions of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.
Her project will also include a case study based on document analysis and interviews she’ll conduct with Snake Valley water users. A remote, sparsely populated desert basin straddling the Utah-Nevada border, the 500-square-mile Snake Valley includes a collection of small communities located about halfway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. The Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes a 250-mile pipeline to move groundwater from the Snake Valley to Las Vegas.
“I’ll be conducting one-to-two hour interviews with a variety of rural and urban stakeholders, ranging from ranchers, farmers and other residents to water authority managers and engineers,” Welsh says. “I’m trying to determine their different rationales for making water-related decisions and their varied perspectives on the pipeline project.”
The final third of Welsh’s project involves an investigation of water banking regulations proposed for the state of Utah.
“Water banking is a regulated practice of sharing, storing and exchanging water rights among users,” she says. “It’s practiced in different ways under different laws in a number of states.”
The Utah Division of Water Rights’ Executive Water Task Force is examining proposed legislation regarding water banking that may be included on the 2011 legislative docket.
“I’m examining the proposed legislation and studying how water banking policy differs from state to state,” Welsh says.
According to its website, the California-based NWRI is a non-profit organization that sponsors programs focused on ensuring safe, reliable sources of water for current and future generations.
Related links
Contact: Lisa Welsh,
Contact: Joanna Endter-Wada, 435-797-2487,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,
USU doctoral student Lisa Welsh

Lisa Welsh, a doctoral student majoring in human dimensions of ecosystem science and management, investigates processes guiding allocation of scarce water supplies.

USU Drought Research group

Welsh, second from right, with research colleagues Rebekah Downard, a recent graduate; faculty mentor Joanna Endter-Wada, Department of Environment and Society; and Karin Kettenring, assistant professor, Department of Watershed Sciences.


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