The 2007 Water Institute Program Initiation Fund (PIF) provided funding for six new faculty-initiated research, extension, and outreach proposals that are multi-/inter-disciplinary and that had the expectation of, and a reasonable plan for, becoming externally-funded programs at the University of Florida. Abstracts and investigators for these projects are summarized below.

See the 2007 PIF report for summary of project results and outcomes (publications, proposals and presentations) to date.


Water Institute 2007 Program Initiation Fund Awards


A Framework for Assessing The Hydrologic Footprint of Large-scale Biofuel Production
Energy independence and global climate change are motivating substantial investment in fossil fuel alternatives. As the ongoing examination of options proceeds, one of the primary alternatives for liquid fuels in particular is the use of bio-fuels. Biofuels are derived from biological feedstocks (e.g., corn, wood, sugarcane) and generally replicate the physical and energetic properties of the fossil fuels they are intended to replace (e.g., combustion temperatures, liquid vs. gas). Because the large scale implementation of biofuels would minimize implications for transforming existing transportation infrastructure, and because they are, in theory, carbon neutral with respect to emissions vs. uptake, they are being widely cited as a sustainable solution. The central criteria for evaluating the sustainability of energy resources is their ability to produce net energy (energy out per energy in), and decisions about feedstocks and processing will largely be made based on comparative energy return on investment (EROI). However, the life cycle of biofuel production includes numerous other resource inputs that need to be accounted for to determine large scale feasibility. The most obvious of these is water, particularly in light of accumulating evidence that human uses of water (both quantity and quality) are unsustainable (e.g., Vorosmarty and Sahagian 2000). Development of an analytical schema for assessing the hydrologic footprint of large-scale biofuel production is the objective of this proposal.
Investigators:  Matthew Cohen (PI), Jason Evans
Project Report
Article accepted in Global Change Biology

Coupling of Advanced Oxidation and Adsorption Processes onto Silica-Titania Composites for Low Level Capture of Metals from Water Effluents
In order to adequately protect aquatic ecosystems as well as human health, efforts have focused on decontamination of natural aquatic systems and wastewater containing elevated toxic metals. Commercially available sorbents for metal removal from water simply transfer a liquid-phase pollution problem to a solid waste problem. Furthermore, they are incapable of achieving effluent concentrations in low ppb and/or ppt range. The goal of this project was to investigate the effectiveness of a novel regenerable material, Silica-Titania Composites (STC) for removal of toxic metals from water. The STC technology is robust and can be easily tailored, thus having the potential of treating metal-laden water from a variety of sources (e.g., urban wastewater, industrial process, etc.). Our long-term objective is to target metals in the current EPA's priority pollutants list, but for this seed grant program, we will focus on mercury (Hg) as a case study.
Investigators: Jean-Claude Bonzongo, Lena Ma, David Mazyck (PI)
Project Report

Environmental Consequences of Nutrients and Organic Matter Injection into Carbonate Aquifers; Implications for Water Quality in Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Technology
While subsurface aquifers deliver and purify one of Florida's most critical natural resource, freshwater, our understanding of the biogeochemical processes occurring there is relatively undeveloped. The proposed research is a set of laboratory experiments that will examine the biogeochemical interactions between natural dissolved organic matter (NDOM), nutrients, microbes and minerals in a laboratory system that models Florida's groundwater. The rationale for this research was driven by three environmental concerns: 1) Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), a process by which water is recharged through wells to an aquifer and extracted for human use at some later time, is proposed as a major component in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). While, 333 CERP wells have been proposed, at present, only a few pilot ASR wells have been implemented. The water to be injected may, in some cases, be agricultural or treated sewage water. However, very little is known of the effects this high nutrient or high NDOM (respectively) water may have on subsurface ecology, aquifer integrity, or the chemical changes that may occur prior to water retrieval; 2) Both natural weathering processes and, increasingly, anthropogenic activities produce and deliver nutrients and NDOM to Florida's rivers, springs, and coastal zone where they are known to cause serious ecological damage. We wish to study the biogeochemical and abiotic processes that transform NDOM and nutrients in the subsurface so that we can better understand and predicatively model the transport, delivery, and consequences of these contaminants; 3) Organic carbon stored in the subsurface represents a large reservoir of organic carbon which, if bioavailable, would be the largest dynamic carbon reservoir on the planet. But carbonate rock itself contains more carbon than all other reservoirs of the planet combined, including marine, atmosphere, biomass and fossil fuels. Surprisingly, relatively little study of the natural processes and human-related practices that may enhance or inhibit the release of this carbon has been carried out. This research addresses the important issue of water quality as it relates to water scarcity and proposed water storage practices.
Investigators: Jean-Claude Bonzongo, Willie Harris, Andrew Zimmerman (PI)
Project Report

Protecting Florida's Water Quality: Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Implementation of Low Impact Development (LID) Practices
Amid growing concern about how to effectively protect and manage Florida's water resources, low impact development (LID) has emerged as a promising yet seldom adopted management strategy. The state of LID in Florida must be evaluated before strategies can be devised for promoting its implementation which, to our knowledge, has not been done in a comprehensive or systematic fashion. This project aimed to 1) conduct cross-disciplinary, Florida-specific needs assessments to identify the current set up opportunities and barriers to successful LID practices; 2) report findings of the needs assessment highlighting intervention junctures, tools and data necessary for LID to realize its potential as a viable compliment and alternative to conventional stormwater management; and 3) develop the foundation of knowledge and collaboration of professionals that will target and support research and extension proposals to increase the likelihood of funding success.
Investigators: Thomas Ankersen, Mark Clark (PI), Thomas Ruppert
Project Report, Clark
Project Report, Ruppert/Ankersen

Sediment Transport through Tidal Inlets During Extreme Forcing: Erosion or Accretion?
Coastal water bodies are increasingly experiencing adverse water quality conditions largely due to anthropogenic loading of pollutants and excess nutrients. Tidal flushing is one of the main mechanisms that determines the residence time of these pollutants. Projected adverse impacts of climate change include noticeable changes to the hydrologic cycle, freshwater runoff, and ocean storm intensity, which could substantially alter the delivery rate and residence time of pollutants in coastal water bodies. At present time, the question of whether storms (tropical or extratropical) transport sediment toward land or toward the ocean through a tidal inlet remains unanswered. Specifically, there are 3 interrelated questions that are unknown: 1) In what direction (onshore or offshore) is the net sediment transport through an inlet during extreme forcing conditions? 2) What is the spatial structure (variability in the direction perpendicular to the transport) of such net sediment transport across the inlet? 3) Is this extreme-forcing transport greater or smaller than that produced by routine forcing like tides? The answer to these questions requires the participation of experts in sediment transport observations, current velocity measurements, wave measurements and theoretical and numerical modeling of flow and sediment dynamics. This study included instrument deployments of instrumentation already in our possession and shipboard surveys at Ponce de Leon Inlet, on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Shipboard surveys were conducted to determine the optimal location for instrument deployments. Observations were complemented by numerical simulations to extend findings to different systems and various forcing conditions.
Investigators: Tian Jian Hsu, Alex Sheremet, Arnoldo Valle-Levinson (PI), John Yeager
Project Report
Article accepted in Continental Shelf Research

Water, Gender And Equity In India
During the academic year 2007-8, a symposium and lecture series was organized that addresses the critical problem of Gender, Water and Equity in India. This program brought eminent scholars to the University of Florida to participate in symposia and discussions on the general topic of water and society and, more specifically, how these issues emerge on the Indian sub-continent. This project aimed to 1) educate scholars in the about the role of gender, religion and social hierarchy in water disputes, and 2) create innovative interdisciplinary collaborations and build on existing partnerships within the International Working Water Group.
Investigators: Anita Anantharam, Vasudha Narayanan, Whitney Sanford (PI)
Project Report