18 November 2010

GWater, part 1: The Idea

OK, so I finally feel comfortable enough to talk about some ideas that have been sitting around in my archives for a while, on which I've been procrastinating far too long, but that have occupied my thoughts and ambitions and work for (literally) years. I don't know why I've not yet put these ideas out to a wider audience already. As it is now, just some friends, colleagues and co-workers have seen them, but no one person has seen it all, and for that matter it's probably not all there will be. Let's just see where the train of thought goes...

So, I'll start with something that I think was a basic idea that I've held on to a long time and not seen much progress toward elsewhere, though there are some positive signs that I'll explore later (part 2). For now, it's enough just to get it out. If you really like it, then let's talk about it. If I didn't want to explore it more, carry it farther, make something of it, then I wouldn't be putting it out here.

A little over two years ago, around the time that I left NASA-GSFC and moved my family and self to Arizona to pursue a project there, I had already formulated the idea for what I called "Google Water." At the time, I thought "Well, there is Google Mail and Earth and News and Maps and Blogs (which is Blogger, a.k.a. BlogSpot) and all kinds of stuff, why not leverage those to a useful purpose in their combination?" And, at the time, Google's philanthropic arm (Google.org) was running a contest to celebrate Google's 10th anniversary, called "Project 10 to the 100" because that's a googol (partial inspiration for Google's name). They planned to distribute $10M among five worthy projects. So the funding-contest was certainly attractive, and I approached it with a foundation in basic water science and the intent to leverage things that Google was already doing, and yet still sticking to the basic philosophy of what Google does best (gather and index and rank and show tons of information in a way that the user can better understand and use). As the site stated, they were looking for ideas in numerous categories, to many of which I thought that "Google Water" would apply and give the project proposal an edge. All of that, together, gave me good reason to put words to paper in fleshing out my idea. The following is the text of my original entry, according to the input form instructions, submitted in October 2008 and reproduced here with a few brief notes for explanation.
Idea name (50 chars)
Google Water

[Note: I was not allowed to enter a URL in the name, but water.google.com would have been the obvious website for the project. Since that didn't happen, I've shortened the name of my idea to GWater--it could stand for "Global Water" now, right?]

Idea in one sentence (150 chars)
Google and IBM partner with government and academics for informatics-based education in water resources and emerging solutions to global water crises.

[Note: at the time I was talking with a leader at IBM's Big Green Innovations about working together on the technology basis for ideas like these.]

Idea in more depth (300 words)
In the formulation of its Millennium Development Goals, the UN has indicated that nearly one-sixth of the global population lives with inadequate water resource provisions, and more than twice that number suffer from inadequate sanitation and sewage treatment facilities. We must also recognize that no-one is immune from inadequate governance in water resource management and the mistreatment of natural resources with pollution discharges and increasing numbers of contaminants from industry, agriculture, and public works. Researchers have identified 260 international river basins, watersheds shared by two or more countries, around the world. With global climate change, the potential for diminished water supplies from surface and groundwater sources is increasing in many regions. Overallocation and overdrafts of these traditional sources challenge the stability of societies, especially where the natural and political climate for societal sustainability is already marginal and population and urban growth remain large. If any solution can be found to these problems, part of the answer lies in the adequate discovery and provision of knowledge for informed regional and international discussion over proper and sustainable uses of our already scarce water resources. With such information we may track the environmental and societal impacts of global climate change and predict future impacts with some skill. We propose a leveraged application of Google-based expertise in knowledge discovery and information management, along with academic partners around the world and industry partners in information services and technology such as IBM, to the collection and provision of global information on hydrology- and water-related issues for the benefit of scientists, researchers, educators, and decision-makers around the globe. Such information can support the efforts of innumerable international and government resource and aid agencies, community- and faith-based charitable organizations, and the responses of states to crisis situations and natural disasters in both neighboring regions and around the world.

Problem or issue addressed (150 words)
We propose a comprehensive, information-based approach to education of the public and decision-makers on issues and problems in regional and global freshwater resources. These problems include, but are not limited to: surface and groundwater scarcity; equitable access to water under constraints of shared resource development; gender-based inequities in traditional societies; impacts of poor sanitation and natural and anthropogenic influences on water quality and, thus, on public health; the potential for sustainable development in areas with underutilized or overallocated water supplies. Such problems extend to political relations between countries and regions: of 260 international river basins identified throughout the world, fewer than 10% have international treaties, agreements or compacts on sharing of the water resources and related information on those rivers. Transparency in shared information seems one of the keys to successful negotiation of reasonable allocation and use, especially in areas of water resource scarcity such as arid and semi-arid regions.

Who would benefit the most, and how? (150 words)
The population of the global hydrosphere, almost 7B at the time of this proposal, would benefit from a centralized educational resource on water-related issues from local to global scales. Many would feel some measure of security knowing the quality and source of their water supply, and who might help them make the best of available resources. About 1.5B people suffer from inadequate water supplies, and more than 2.5B suffer from poor public health due to inadequate sanitation facilities. Commercial interests would benefit knowing the availability and reasonable use of water resources throughout the developed and developing world. All sectors would benefit from comprehensive information sharing on the allocations, uses, and impairment of available water resources. Those in need of specific resources, e.g. groundwater pumps or a water treatment program, could benefit directly from the promotion of micro-loan and larger funding programs and available links to engineering and construction solution providers.

Initial steps required to get this idea off the ground (150 words)
We propose to develop a team of subject matter authorities and experts in hydrologic sciences, hydraulics, engineering, ecology, knowledge management, information services and technology, stakeholder engagement, resource evaluation, engagement with government agencies and media interests in the topic, and international cultural relations. We will leverage the role of a neutral party in convincing otherwise reticent groups and governments to share information in a way designed to help, rather than subvert, the process of international relations and responsible resource sharing and allocation. This team, through a central management structure that identifies the topic areas of most general and specific need in the target audience, would have the power to create a centralized web site, mine the available information resources (with cross-language and cross-cultural capability, quite possibly the greatest obstacles), and provide the information freely to any and all potential users for national and international transparency and informed decision-making in water-related issues.

The optimal outcome, and how it would be measured (150 words)
The optimal outcome from such effort at information gathering and dissemination is the preservation of quality of life in developed countries, and of life itself in many parts of the developing world. If even one life is saved because the sharing of information and enhanced transparency of regional and government policies and activities leads to better management of water resources and quality, then all of the funding provided to such an effort is justified. In more quantitative terms, Google and its partners in industry and academia hold the opportunity to affect directly the lives of billions around the globe and to have that contribution demonstrated in measurable progress toward the UN Millennium Development Goals. Engagement of numerous Google components (Maps, Earth, News, Scholar, Code, etc.) will reflect a solid commitment toward global social responsibility and the sustainability of one of our most precious natural resources in the service of humanity.

Who should do this (50 words)
A cross-disciplinary organization that is already oriented on research and information service in Earth and environmental sciences and that promotes and maintains ties to academia, government agencies and NGOs, such as the Arizona Water Institute and its affiliated SAHRA National Science Foundation S&T Center.
You see there that I was partial to my affiliation at the time, but that the idea would have required cooperation over a much wider base of supporting institutions, organizations, agencies, and governments. Other than my overestimate of the global population at the moment (for dramatic effect), this was the only part of the proposed idea on which I felt I was caught short.

I figured, at the time, that I could depend on the people around me, and on the very few colleagues closest to me who had seen or talked with me about the idea. I was afraid, however, of letting the idea out in the open, of getting laughed at, of being considered naive for the idealism of the concept. I wasn't afraid of losing the idea to someone else, that it might get picked up elsewhere and someone would run with it, but without me. First of all, I thought it up; no-one else knows more about the underlying idea and formulation than me, so carrying the idea forward in planning and logistics probably would not have come very easily to someone else without getting my input somewhere near the beginning anyway. Secondly, there are other ideas, even better ideas, for me to pursue in my work. An idea like this, barely two pages of prose, is just a slough off the iceberg.

But most of all, I was afraid of being dismissed outright by those who felt that I just wouldn't be able to make it work, that I could talk up the idea but wouldn't be able to carry it through because I didn't have the skills to build a team, to leverage my background, to make the connections. Or, the worst of all, simply because I don't have those magic initials (Ph.D.) after my name, and therefore I'm not worth your listening and reading time.

The time for being scared of all of that is passed now. So I don't have the magic initials--big deal. I have initials for other things, two graduate degrees that demonstrate my educational background, time in court as an expert witness, a CV that shows my experience, a passion for the work and the subject, some talent for finding and researching and crafting ideas that can work, and that can make a difference.

I'm finally, cautiously, but finally breaking out of a shell here. I hope it resonates well with my readers, however many there may be. There's a lot more to come...

16 November 2010

Vacancies (2 of 2): SUNY-ESF Asst. Prof. in Water Resources Engineering

This vacancy announcement also came across my inbox today:
State University of New York (SUNY)
College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF)
Department of Environmental Resources Engineering
Assistant Professor in Water Resources Engineering
Syracuse, New York, USA
Indefinite (tenure-track)
Closing Date
17 January 2011 for full consideration, open until filled
SUNY-ESF was founded in 1911 and is one of the most selective SUNY campuses for undergraduate admissions. The College’s long-standing partnership with Syracuse University provides ESF students and faculty with many opportunities. More than 90% of ESF faculty members are active in funded research (the highest percentage in SUNY). The Department of Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) has eight full-time collegial faculty members who contribute to our national and international reputation in scholarship and currently offers a B.S. in Environmental Resources Engineering and Forest Engineering, M.S. and Ph.D. graduate degrees in three areas of study (Water Resources Engineering, Geospatial Engineering, Ecological Engineering), and M.P.S. degrees in two areas of study (Environmental Management and Mapping Sciences).

Candidates must have a doctoral degree in Civil or Environmental Engineering, or a closely related field, by August 2011. The candidate must demonstrate the potential to conduct research, publish, and teach in the area of water resources engineering. The candidate must have the ability to work in a collegial manner and with a diverse student body. Preferred qualifications include prior experience in teaching, student supervision or mentoring; professional service; grant writing; research publication; collaborative research partnerships; research project management.

Teaching responsibilities include developing and teaching both undergraduate and graduate engineering courses related to water resources engineering. Teaching duties will include a course required in the undergraduate curriculum (e.g., fluid mechanics, engineering hydrology and hydraulics), a course allowing for advanced undergraduate or introductory graduate instruction in the broad area of water resources engineering, an advanced graduate course in the applicant’s research area, and a graduate seminar.

Research responsibilities include developing and sustaining a relevant and internationally recognized research program in the area of water resources engineering. Research areas may include computational analysis, supported by lab and/or field investigations, of water resource systems at any range of scales (micro to global) and emphasis (physical, chemical, and/or biological components). Research duties will include mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, securing competitive grants to support research activities, and producing peer-reviewed publications. The applicant will have the opportunity to: actively participate in the ESF Council on Hydrologic System Science; regularly collaborate in research activities with Department, College, and nearby Syracuse University colleagues; independently coordinate research with state, federal, and international agencies (e.g., NYS DEC, USDA Forest Service, NOAA, USGS, NASA, WMO); and utilize ESF labs (e.g., hydrology and hydraulics lab, ecological engineering lab, geospatial engineering computing lab, and suite of chemical analysis labs through ESF’s A&TS) and field sites (e.g., ESF is owner of local and international sites and partner in several NSF LTER sites).

Service responsibilities include supporting University, College, and Department duties and those of the applicant’s profession (e.g., societies, journals, and programs). College and Department service may include advising undergraduate and graduate students, attending faculty meetings, fulfilling administrative and committee assignments, participating in and chairing student steering committees, contributing to outreach, and advising student clubs or organizations. Professional service may involve reviewing peer-reviewed manuscripts, convening conference sessions, and serving as associate-editor for journals, panel member for proposal reviews, member to regional to international task forces, and officer for professional societies.

More information on the position, and instructions for application to this vacancy, are available on the SUNY-ESF site. Good luck!

Vacancies (1 of 2): CSIRO Hydrological Modeller **CLOSING SOON**

This vacancy announcement recently came across my inbox and is closing soon:
CSIRO Land and Water
Surface Water Hydrology Program
Hydrological Modeller
Highett, Victoria, Australia
Closing Date
19 November 2010
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia's national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world. This position will be based in the Surface Water Hydrology Program in CSIRO Land and Water (CLW). The Surface Water Hydrology Program is one of nine research programs in CLW. The Program has about 50 hydrologists, many with acknowledged international expertise in hydrological science, hydroclimatology, hydrological modelling, river system modelling and irrigation hydrology. The Program has the largest group of surface water hydrologists in Australia, and in collaboration with partners, it has the critical mass to consistently deliver hydrological science that directly benefits water resources management. The Program has a long record of leading the development of hydrological modelling tools for the Australian water industry, and over the past three years, has led some of the largest and technically challenging water modelling projects in Australia. The Program delivers its research mainly through CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country (WfHC) Flagship. The WfHC Flagship is a large national research flagship that addresses one of Australia’s most pressing natural resource issues – sustainable management of Australia’s water resources. The Flagship works with governments, industries and communities to develop the knowledge needed to substantially improve the way we use and manage water.

CLW is seeking an experienced Hydrological Modeller to work within the Water Forecasting and Prediction Team of the Surface Water Hydrology Program. In this ongoing position you will work closely with personnel from the Bureau of Meteorology and other agencies as well as other groups within CSIRO. The new hire will:
  • contribute to the development of improved methods of forecasting streamflow while translating modelling research into operational tools for use by Bureau forecasters
  • conduct innovative research on statistical modelling, rainfall-runoff modelling, model parameter estimation and calibration as well as coupling of models (e.g. linking rainfall and climate forecasts to flood and streamflow forecasts).
Requirements include:
  • a Ph.D. and/or equivalent experience in science or engineering
  • demonstrated high level experience in statistical, mathematical and numerical modelling for hydrological applications
  • scientific programming skills, especially knowledge of scientific programming languages (e.g. Fortran), visualization and statistics software (e.g. IDL, MATLAB, R) and automation (i.e. scripting).
Additional requirements, a more detailed position descriptions, and instructions for submitting your application are available at CSIRO's Careers site for Reference No. 2010/825. Unlike so many announcements from both private and government employers in the U.S., the Aussies seem to recognize that potential employees want the salary listed right up front and not left ambiguous or wide open to negotiation. I would suggest that this openness certainly helps define expectations on both sides of the initial conversations, and thus allows the employer and scientist to focus on needs and qualifications instead of dancing around the salary issue to see who will mention money first.

Good luck!

Tuesday comic

In the spirit of DZ's "Monday Funnies" (which are, more often than not, exactly as advertised) here's a comic that was sent to me by a fan (read: wife). I continued the conversation for us, tongue-in-cheek of course:
Scientist: "So I can use human subjects for testing?"
NIH administrator: "Only if they're brain-dead and beyond hope."
Scientist: "Great! Call your co-workers and ask them to come over as soon as they can, then lie down over there..."

10 November 2010

Television: "Liquid Assets: The Big Business of Water" by CNBC

Hosted by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, CNBC Anchor and Reporter
Televised by CNBC
First aired 30 September 2010 at 9 pm EDT

Links: official website

Our host welcomes us on location just above the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam complex, where intake towers are framed by the rarely-seen backside of the dam and the bright "bathtub ring" around Lake Mead is obvious. The Colorado River originates in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado -- though the wrong, eastern side of the Continental Divide is shown in the video (I recognized the upper Big Thompson valley right away) -- from which the River travels through seven states on its way to the Gulf of California. There is much to be told about the Upper Colorado River Basin, water use and conservation and plans afoot in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico; none of these issues are addressed here. The focus is, instead, on where money and power draw water from the River disproportionately, in the Lower Basin states of Arizona and, more to the point here, Nevada and California.

Al Stehly runs an avocado orchard at Sunrise Ranch in southern California (watch video). Despite the installation of highly efficient drip irrigation, he still pays water bills around $20K per month. As new suburban communities pop up around the farmlands, he wonders if new supplies have been identified or whether the existing water supply is simply expected to cover the new residents' needs as well as those of already-present farmers. Globally, agriculture uses 80% of existing freshwater supplies, and it is suggested that we are already at a "tipping point" between the needs of agricultural and urban uses.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, reiterates that the Colorado River is no longer the reliable resource that it once was, or at least claimed to be, and that diversification of LV's water sources is a difficult but necessary task. At the time of CNBC's filming, Lake Mead was only 40% full and dropping rapidly. Nevada receives only 2% of the average annual flow in the Colorado River, according to interstate agreements. In the city and vast suburbs of Las Vegas, water police patrol for wasteful water use, such as watering lawns during the daytime. Misdemeanor fines start at $80, and it has been found that residential homeowners generate more waste than casinos, who recycle their fountain water and have financial incentives to make sure their water systems run as efficiently as possibly. Las Vegas residents actually get paid to remove grass and use xeriscaping practices in their yards. Ms. Mulroy is arguably one of the most powerful women west of the Rockies, and certainly one of the most resourceful in the country.

Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, stands atop a dam that is in the process of refurbishment and an increase in height for expansion of the contained municipal reservoir, while the city actively seeks companies to add desalination facilities along the coast. Imperial Valley farmers routinely sell surplus water to urban areas in southern California, as those farmers hold historical rights to use from the Colorado River. Many question the logic of using what could otherwise be diverted to cities for growing water-intensive crops such as alfalfa, especially in the Imperial Irrigation District where the weather and climate would not otherwise support such crops.

Bruce Babbit, former Secretary of the Interior, says that "there's no crisis" in water supply. The crises affecting water, he states, are in water-related infrastructure, the pricing of water, and in the allocation of supplies. As Mr. Babbit says, we just "need to use it thoughtfully." Some say accurate pricing of water supplies, along the lines of a market system, would solve the problem; others say that more market-oriented pricing is just part of the solution to such crises. All sides agree on the need for change (except for those who get their water free, or at a highly-subsidized price, the program fails to note).

Sitka, Alaska, receives an annual average of 86 inches of rain and 39 inches of snow, and the locals consider it "blue gold" (watch video). Most residents of Sitka support selling their abundant freshwater resources, especially from nearby Blue Lake, which is so clean that it needs no treatment to meet EPA guidelines for drinking water supplies. National Geographic News carried a story on these developments dated 25 June 2010. Garry White, the executive director of the Sitka Economic Development Association, counts permits for the sale of 95 billion gallons per year of Sitka-owned water at a rate of about $0.01 per gallon, generating high income for a municipality that is otherwise reliant on property taxes and a small tourism industry. The municipal infrastructure can already move 33.6 million gallons per day to the coast for export, though estimates of additional infrastructure investment needs range from $4M to $15M in order to fully exploit the available resources. At the source, True Alaskan Water is already bottling Blue Lake for export, but the big money is in bulk water transfer by ships to arid zones, including India and the Middle East. Peter Gleick, author and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, says that the plan is economically infeasible: a typical tanker (ship) of oil is worth $200-300M, but the same size tanker of water would be worth only $200-300K (that's less than the cost of the tanker ship itself, by the way). However, the locals are "convinced" that it can work. Recent news from India seems to support the notion that there's nothing to it but to try.

The city officials of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, seek to draw business to their region, fueling the city's transformation to the "Water Hub of America" on Lake Michigan. The North American Great Lakes contain approximately 20% of world's surface freshwater, which is nearly 90% of the available surface freshwater in the United States. Milwaukee has focused on water-oriented businesses such as Badger Meter, Siemens, GE (the parent company of CNBC, it is stated for full disclosure), ITT and others, and the mayor wants to offer water cheap or even free to new businesses that move their facilities to the city. Even local educational curricula are beginning to incorporate topics in the business of water: scarcity, quality, infrastructure, technology are subjects that students meet in high schools and in their college choices.

At the MillerCoors brewing facility in Milwaukee, "water is everything" (see a separate CNBC article). Water is used in brewing, pasteurizing, packaging and shipping. According to MillerCoors, the industry standard holds that making 1 barrel of beer requires 5 barrels of water, while MillerCoors uses only 3.5 barrels of water through advances in water recycling, especially in the pasteurization process (watch video). The point is raised here that the water footprint of many food products, especially heavily processed fast foods, remains exceedingly large. At the same time, food processing and transportation rely on energy, on which subject Peter Gleick points out to us that energy and water are interdependent. Actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. tells us that conservation is the key because, different from the energy alternatives now available as oil supplies run out (though they won't any time soon), there is no alternative to which we can resort when clean freshwater runs out. Recent conferences in Washington DC, World Water Week in Stockholm, and other events seek to raise the profile of water issues in the public discourse, but citizen activism remains low, at least in the U.S. For those of us who work on these issues, and for many who don't, the "Water - Energy Nexus" is by now losing its meaning. The buzz-phrase remains limited in scope and bereft of meaning to all but the most attentive. I hope to change that soon, but you'll need to remain attentive...

Chile is a country with extremes: the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is one of the driest places on Earth, while water resources abound in the southern portion of the country. Chile is considered to have one of most advanced water markets in world, and with an estimated 100% of urban and 75% of rural populations having access to freshwater, Chilean citizens generally consider the market-based water system more efficient than government control. There are even water real estate agencies that arrange for a landowner to sell the water that is on their land, but not the land itself. Water itself, or simply the access to it, can be leased and sold as property, but it is not explained here how one person leasing their section of a rushing river to a hydropower company will affect their upstream and downstream neighbors. Despite some ambiguities in the market mechanism, many water rights are sold to mining interests in the northern parts of the country and to power companies and fish farmers in the southern regions. There are obvious trade-offs when agricultural productivity is reduced in favor of mining, and drinking water must be trucked into some of the driest and least-populated areas of the country for the remaining citizens to survive on their otherwise dry land. Still, looking on Chile's example, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt calls for more market flexibility in the western U.S. to ease scarcity and related problems in an otherwise heavily-subsidized and control-oriented water distribution system. Many states in the western U.S. insist on the doctrine of prior appropriation, while others say that "beneficial use" should be decided by officials, not by market pricing, in an eventual and necessary transition to a more equitable system of water rights.

And finally, in our tour of water issues, we come around again to the topic of bottled water. Comedian and former mayor Lewis Black gets a few moment on-screen just because he has a stand-up bit on the issue, but more credible witnesses to the rise of bottled water also appear including Peter Gleick, author of Bottled and Sold, and Joseph Doss of the International Bottled Water Association. To what do they attribute the rise of bottled water, now the #2 beverage category in the U.S. behind only carbonated beverages? Mr. Doss suggests that it's not the advertising--it must be something else. A brief history lesson shows us that Perrier started with elitist advertising, then added health benefits to their appeal. In the U.S., water bottler Crystal Geyser essentially founded the market on the basis of health, sophistication, widespread availability, and hand-held convenience. In general, bottled water sales closely follow the overall economy with a slight lag, suggesting its commodification over time. The same is not necessarily true of water in general, especially that provided by your local utility through your tap. Peter Gleick rightly suggests that we need to think about it thoroughly and, essentially, make unnecessary the reasons people use to justify their purchase of bottled water.

According to our host, Mark Twain said "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting." I don't think that is the exact quote, and I'm not even sure it's the most appropriate for this television documentary, but in broad overview of the challenges and successes related to water, the pithy quotes really don't matter. What does seem to matter in the public perception of water is supply, cost, and accessibility.

04 November 2010

Vacancies (3 of 3): Arizona WRRC Associate Director

And finally, this vacancy announcement also came across my inbox recently:
University of Arizona
Water Resources Research Center and
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Associate Director and Associate/Full Professor
Tucson, Arizona, USA
Permanent, renewed on a year-to-year basis
Closing Date
Open until filled; application review begins 29 November 2010
Candidates are sought for an Associate Director (Year-to Year Professional), Water Resources Research Center, and an Associate/Full Professor (Tenure Track), Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona, beginning in August 2011. The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. in economics, agricultural and resource economics, or a related discipline, and a demonstrably strong record of scholarly research, publication, and teaching. A record of successful grant funding is required. Candidate’s research portfolio must include water management/policy related topics. Of particular interest are scholars who have worked on water and energy and who have a demonstrated record of interdisciplinary work.

As Associate Director, this position will include working closely with the WRRC Director to administer the WRRC, a Research and Extension Center within the College, part of a national network of water centers, and one of the five centers administering the university-wide Water Sustainability Program. This position is one of several positions authorized by the Provost as part of a broad hiring initiative implemented by the umbrella Institute of the Environment to enhance the University’s world renowned environmental and water research. An interdisciplinary search committee has been formed, which includes water experts from outside, as well as inside, the university. As Associate/Full Professor, the teaching expectations are two classes per academic year from the curriculum offerings of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Research expectations include publication in leading refereed general and field journals in economics and agricultural and resource economics.

Applications for this vacancy (Job #46044) should be submitted through the University of Arizona's on-line Career Track application system. More information is available in the position description there.

Vacancies (2 of 3): NOAA-NWS Water Resources Program Manager

This vacancy announcement also came across my inbox recently:
NOAA National Weather Service (NWS)
Hydrology and Climate Services Division
Water Resources Program Manager (GS-1301-13)
Western Region Headquarters
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Closing Date
10 November 2010
The incumbent (the person hired, for those of us who don't speak bureaucrat-ese, which seems the opposite of the definition in politician-ese) will serve as an expert water adviser in water resources and provides programmatic management and support in building capacity for water resources activities in the hydrologic service areas (HSAs) and River Forecast Centers (RFC) in the Western Region (WR). This includes:
  • Responsibility for the overall management of the Water Resources Program in the WR;
  • Responsibility for development of policy recommendations for the operation of the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) and RFC Water Resources Program;
  • Service as a technical advisor on matters involving the integration, use, and enhancement of water resources activities in the WR;
  • Interacts with the Hydrology Program Manager and the Climate Services Program Manager in intersecting areas of water resources with the Hydrology and Climate Services Programs;
  • Assists in pilot projects involving the IWRSS (Integrated Water Resources Science and Services) in the WR.
The scored occupational questionnaire will evaluate you on the following competencies:
  1. Knowledge of the Water Resources and Hydrologic & Climate Services Programs;
  2. Skills in program management methods and techniques;
  3. Knowledge of theoretical and applied hydrological/hydraulic and climate sciences as applied to operational hydrological forecasting;
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and direct work methods and procedures;
  5. Ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
If you are already a federal ("status") employee, you can find the position announcement on USAJobs as listing NWS-WR-2010-0021.

If you are not already a federal employee and want to apply, you'd better have a strong CV; it's tough to get into a fed job from the outside, especially at grade 13. Even though you're applying as an outsider, the announcement is still (for some reason, and like most) written such that you need to demonstrate your education and year(s) of specialized experience at the GS-12 level or equivalent, which requires demonstration of your education and year(s) of specialized experience at the GS-11 level or equivalent, ad infinitum. At some point, your degree does count for something, but that's usually just the baseline for your evaluation. If I have interpreted correctly from my recent efforts, a Ph.D. (or two M.S. in relevant areas, as I have) is around the level of a GS-11, but it depends on which agency you're trying to join--each agency writes their own announcements, and the general federal guidelines for qualifications are the minimum requirements. If you've just completed a post-doc position, which you didn't get without a Ph.D. no matter how many M.S. and years of experience you have, that might get you into federal service at GS-12. If you have management experience--say, as a tenured professor with a successful research program, which you probably didn't get without doing a post-doc and now probably wouldn't want to leave anyway--that might get you in at GS-13. It is a bureaucracy, after all, and in a highly technical agency, and NOAA seems to take good care of their own. If you have qualifications at that level, you can find the announcement on USAJobs as listing NWS-WR-2011-0020, and I certainly wish you good luck!

Vacancies (1 of 3): UN-Water Chief Technical Adviser

This vacancy announcement (pdf) recently came across my inbox:
Chief Technical Adviser
UNOPS/SWOC (Switzerland Operations Center)
Geneva, Switzerland
2 years, with possibility of extension
Closing Date
12 November 2010
UN-Water is the interagency mechanism established in 2003 by the Chief Executive Board and the High Level Committee on Programmes of the United Nations to promote coherence and coordination in UN system actions aimed at implementing the agenda defined by the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on Sustainable Development as it relates to its scope of work.
Over the years, general interest for and support to UN-Water has increased steadily. It is becoming an increasingly efficient vehicle for supporting actions and promoting solutions related to the complex water-related agenda. This includes issues associated with both water supply and sanitation as well as water resources management. UN-Water continues to focus on developing its role as a support mechanism for members, partners and other key stakeholders in their efforts to provide leadership and offer solutions to water challenges in support of Member States.

The participating UN Organizations have agreed that they should adopt a coordinated approach to collaboration within the UN system, with partners and donors who wish to support the implementation of the work of UN-Water.

The participating United Nations Organizations established a UN-Water Inter Agency Trust Fund (hereinafter referred to as the “UNW-IATF") as well as a forum to steer the operational management of UN-Water called the Joint Steering Group. UN-Water Members and UNOPS signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up the administrative structure for UNOPS to administer all aspects of the UNW-IATF including remittances, disbursements and transfer of funds, monitoring and reporting to the UN-Water Members through the Joint Steering Group and donors.

For more information, find the full position description and requirements, as well as application instructions, at the UNOPS site (pdf). Good luck!