Researchers Assessing Water Policy Effectiveness, Climate Change

Contact: Shaleen Jain, (207) 581-2420

ORONO — Water, sometimes plentiful, other times scarce, is a vital resource to humans and the environment, but finding a balance that keeps the needs of both fulfilled is complicated, especially when combined with climate change concerns.

A University of Maine research team studying how shifting climate conditions are affecting water supplies in Maine also is looking at corresponding water allocation policies. Improper water allocation policies can result not only in an inability to supply water reliably, but also can have an adverse impact on the ecosystem and the economy of an area.

University of Maine Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Shaleen Jain has looked at the New England region watershed to understand its hydrology and stream flow during the past half century. With the help of graduate students, he’s analyzed stream flow changes across the state from the St. John River Basin to smaller watersheds in southern Maine, and is using the information to see how the state’s sustainable water allocation policy stacks up.

His research is funded by a $28,106 grant from the U.S. Geological Survey, with matching support totaling $44,458 from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

“The policy, which seeks to preserve the ecosystem services and water quality, is forward-looking and is very explicit in balancing the human and ecosystems both as users of water,” says Jain. “Our principal focus was to think about the adaptation considerations for water utilities, the ecosystem’s objectives, and effective implementation of this water allocation policy.”

Statewide, he has initiated work with about 40 water utility managers to obtain their views and information regarding the needs of their communities when it comes to the state’s changing hydrology.

A UMaine Today magazine article has additional information about Jain’s research.