Hoʻomaikaʻi Hawaiʻi NSF EPSCoR team!

To help the state address this critical issues over water quality and quantity in Hawai‘i., the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Program has awarded $20M to the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) to do a 5 year groundbreaking study of water sustainability issues through a collaboration called ‘Ike Wai.

The project name ‘Ike Wai symbolizes knowledge (‘Ike) of water (wai) which informs values, policies, and practices for managing this resource. The ‘Ike Wai program assembles UH, state and federal agencies, and community partners to address critical gaps in the understanding of Hawai‘i’s water supply that limit decision making, planning, and crisis responses. The project spans geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge and economic forecasting, and pairs University scientists in partnerships with State and Federal agencies, and community.

Fundamental data and knowledge gaps about water are limiting economic growth and placing Hawai‘i at risk. Critically important are new, comprehensive, groundwater models to determine aquifer interconnectivity and sustainable yields, as existing models do not adequately consider the subsurface geologic structures of Hawaiian volcanoes. ʻIke Wai tests the central hypothesis that these structures exert profound influences on water transport, storage, residency time, and contamination potential, and therefore determine Hawai‘i’s future water security.

Hawai‘i is a natural laboratory for the study of water resources on young Pacific volcanic islands (e.g., American Samoa and Fiji). Diversity in volcano age, eruption types, structural history, and hydrological features generates a complex subsurface water system that provides ~89% of Hawai‘i’s potable water supply. Volcanic dikes, buried ash layers, and massive lava flows influence water transport, storage, residency, and contamination potential but are not detailed in current models.

To achieve the goals of the ‘Ike Wai Project the research team will collect new geological, hydrological, and geophysical data at previously unavailable spatio-temporal resolution to provide actionable models of Hawai‘i’s aquifers, water flow, and transport processes. Geophysical imaging will provide new high-resolution 3D maps of geologic structures. Real-time down-well monitoring will support analysis of aquifer volume and hydraulic conductivity estimations. Flow and aquifer connectivity measurements will integrate three approaches: submarine ground water discharge analysis, geochemistry and, innovatively, the use of microbial diversity as a ground water tracer. The Frank Lab will lead the microbiological efforts on this project.

To support research efforts the team will create a transformative knowledge resource and modeling platform for water research and decision support. The ʻIke Wai Integrated Knowledge Environment (IKE) will be a data repository, support numerical modeling with High Performance Computing, and advanced data visualization, creating a decision support tool for our water enterprise. IKE will be populated with new data, previously untapped legacy/historical agency data, and indigenous Hawaiian knowledge. As an integral part of the field data collection, sensor fabrication, and data analysis, our education program will build an inclusive and diverse pipeline of future water researchers and policymakers. Multi-level efforts in diversity and community engagement that span these objectives are framed by our Pacific island culture and Hawai‘i’s pressing water issues. ʻIke Wai assembles a diverse team of hydrogeophysicists, modelers, volcanologists, engineers, visualization experts, social scientists, and educators, including seven strategic new faculty hires in the University of Hawai‘i (UH) System.


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