Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy

University: University of South Florida

Department/Title: Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department/ Director, School of Global Sustainabilit

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Current University Expertise:

My research concerns the effects of global change on urban water management. My current research is looking into how to make urban water systems more flexible so they can respond to uncertainties associated with global change. I am also the Scientific Director of research project called SWITCH (www.switchurbanwater.eu). SWITCH is one of the largest water research projects funded by the European Union. The project involves 32 partners from across the globe, including 17 from the EU and 12 from developing countries. The aim of SWITCH is to develop scientific, technological and socio-economic solutions for the sustainable and effective management of water in the city of the future (2050) - a city facing major global change pressures. A focus of my research is how to design and manage urban water systems in an uncertain world (as external pressures like climate change show a great degree of uncertainties). Hence we have looked at how to best describe uncertainties, and developed frameworks to generate flexible water systems that are robust and adaptable to new, different, or changing requirements. For example, we have investigated the potential of small-scale decentralized storm-water options that provide internal degrees of freedom, allowing many different combinations to be considered (hence flexibility can be optimized over time). Such strategies could be important climate change adaptation strategies. Another focus area has been on transitioning systems so that they can cope with climate change. The tendency has been to see urban form as fixed. However, if we want to develop more adaptable and robust systems that can cope with climate change, we need to develop effective transitional pathways that allow the system to function over time while moving it from its existing trajectory to an optimal trajectory. Transitioning is not only about infrastructure – we also need to know how to transition our institutional frameworks so that they are better suited to manage our resources in more intelligent and sustainable way.

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