UMass Amherst Engineer Casey M. Brown Receives $500,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation for Work on Global Freshwater Resilience

Casey Brown
Casey Brown
fresh water resilience
fresh water resilience

AMHERST, Mass, – Casey M. Brown, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received a one-year, $500,000 award from the Rockefeller Foundation to support his research and analysis of freshwater resilience around the globe. This new round of funding brings the foundation’s support for Brown’s work to $1.6 million during the past four years.

Working in collaboration with the World Bank, Brown and his team of researchers are bringing specific improvements to water management in pilot demonstrations in three river basins with varying sectoral water demands in Mexico City and in the country of Tanzania.

Brown and his team are providing world-class technical expertise in support of the joint Rockefeller Foundation-World Bank freshwater resilience partnership, which promotes, demonstrates, and communicates the principles of freshwater resilience and thus improves scientific understanding of human-hydrologic systems so they can be managed sustainably.

The Rockefeller Foundation says, “Freshwater resilience means that freshwater ecosystems can handle changes, particularly climate, and still continue to deliver their essential services. This is the fundamental principle of resilience: being able to respond and adapt to shocks and stresses and to transform when conditions require it.”

Working with the Rockefeller Foundation during the past four years, Brown and his Hydrosystems Research Group at UMass Amherst have developed and demonstrated innovative tools for increasing the resilience of water supply systems, including freshwater ecosystems and their dependent constituencies, agriculture and energy producers. 

“In a balanced basin, water is allocated to where it is needed to best serve society,” Brown says. Allocation, in this case, means the process by which the available water resources are assigned among competing users. “The findings of this research will provide insight for planning and adapting the design and operation of water resource systems for a future of change.”

Brown says because the choices of individuals can overlook shared cumulative impacts, a balanced basin has protections for less visible long-term interests, such as maintaining buffers that groundwater and nature provide, and maintaining equitable societies with protections for the disadvantaged. “A progressive allocation scheme and its associated protections serve as a wellspring of freshwater resilience,” he says.

Brown’s research is attempting to spread these progressive water allocation efforts everywhere. In addition, the tools and operational guidelines that Brown’s work is developing will influence World Bank water investment design in all their operations, potentially improving water management globally. The World Bank’s position of dominant influence in the water infrastructure policy internationally ensures wide scaling of these approaches. 

In addition to the Rockefeller Foundation and World Bank, Brown’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.