Cultivating Equity in Water Infrastructure


Location: Zoom


US water infrastructure is not keeping pace with changing hydrological risks and the increasing frequency and magnitude of natural hazard events disproportionately impacts historically marginalized populations. The conventional response is to build higher and stronger. But, there is increased awareness of the limitations and the broader undesirability of this narrow approach. The current push from practitioners and legislators alike for Nature-Based Solutions opens a window of opportunity for radically redefining water infrastructure and the processes by which it is scoped, designed, planned, and implemented.

Through the Network for Engineering with Nature, the Institute of Resilient Infrastructure Systems at UGA is partnered with the US Army Corp of Engineers to do just this. This talk focuses on one aspect of the collaboration - how to move from broad calls for infrastructure equity, to project-level processes that cultivate equity throughout. The interdisciplinary team of social scientists and engineers is cognizant that equity requires society-wide change, but also identifies steps that can be taken now to promote equity and prop open the window of opportunity to ensure time for broader systemic change to occur.

Dr. Don Nelson's goal as an anthropologist is to pursue research that is intellectually challenging and that enhances our abilities to resolve complex social and environmental issues. His intellectual interests span scales that include individual households, communities, watersheds, regions, and nations.

Nelson has worked extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus in Northeast Brazil and the Brazilian Amazon. He has also been involved with work in Africa including the countries of Mozambique, Angola, and The Comoros. He uses a range of participatory methodologies as well as quantitative tools in my research, which include GIS and remote sensing.

Nelson is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology with minor in Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis from the University of Arizona in 2005.

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