Prof. Sara Hughes Awarded NSF Grant to Study Link Between Financial Stress and Drinking Water Decisions
SEAS Assistant Professor Sara Hughes has been awarded a three-year, $420,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a project that will study how financial stress in city governments affects decisions about drinking water systems, and how those decisions affect community resilience.
It is the first NSF grant that has been awarded to Hughes, whose research and teaching focus on urban water and climate change policy, politics, and governance. Hughes, the project’s principal investigator, will collaborate with Christine Kirchhoff of the University of Connecticut.
“I’m thrilled to receive this grant,” said Hughes. “The project will advance understanding of how financial stress affects decision-making and resilience of drinking water systems, producing actionable knowledge. The project will also generate a new, publicly accessible database and educate and train students working at the intersection of financial stress, risk and resilience, and equity in local decision-making.”
Cities face immense fiscal stress brought about by the confluence of increased demands for critical city services—including drinking water, education, transportation, fire protection, and housing—and precipitous declines in revenues needed to support those increased demands, Hughes wrote in her project abstract.
Decisions made under conditions of fiscal stress may erode and undermine the resilience of these critical city services by impeding the ability of water managers to respond to today’s challenges and plan for an uncertain future, while maintaining affordable and equitable service delivery.
Financial stress therefore presents a significant risk to the resilience of the services upon which millions of people depend. Despite these risks, the effects of financial stress on decision-making by city governments and the influence of local political, institutional, and physical contexts on decision-making is poorly understood. The NSF award will support fundamental research that will address this gap in knowledge, said Hughes.