SERA43: Southern Region Integrated Water Resources Coordinating Committee

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

SERA43: Southern Region Integrated Water Resources Coordinating Committee

Duration: 10/01/2019 to 09/30/2024

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

Water has long dictated the distribution of population in the Southern region of the US. Humans have developed elaborate systems of infrastructure, water rights laws, institutions, and corporate entities to govern the use of water for agriculture and urban uses. The resulting modified water system dramatically impacts agroecosystems and their ability to provide food, water, and essential ecosystem services. SERA 43 will advance an innovative transdisciplinary paradigm to transform our understanding and management of coupled social-hydrologic- ecological water systems in the face of changing climate, land use, and populations over the next 50 years. We will work to engage the research, extension, and teaching capacities of the Land Grant University (LGU) system in the Southern US region (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA) in a collaborative effort that will further strengthen regional ties between LGUs, decision-makers, and citizens working together to address critical water resource management issues.

The overall goal of SERA 43 is to better understand and advance progress on a trifecta of water related issues; water security (e.g., supply), water quality (for both agricultural production and human consumption), and provision of ecosystem services that are increasingly recognized as critical socio-economic constraints on agricultural production. Specific goals include: 1) Measure and quantitatively model linkages and feedbacks among key social, built (urban), hydroclimate, and ecological components of representative southern agricultural water ecosystems? 2) Use the integrated field and modeling results to characterize and predict the impacts of altered hydroclimate (e.g., drought, flooding, temperature) on hydrologic flows for agriculture, local communities, and ecosystem services; and 3) Provide suggested adaptation mechanisms for comminutes and agricultural producers to pave a ‘way forward’ in the face of present and anticipated future water constraints. These goals will support the science to answer such critical questions as: How can greater understanding of linkages among social, hydroclimate, and ecosystem components of southern water systems improve the ability of decision-makers to balance future agricultural production needs with population growth and ecosystem services in the face of anticipated biotic and abiotic stressors? And, what are the emerging threats and constraints to water availability in the southern region? A cross cutting theme of our work enables development and dissemination of educational modules and technology transfer of lessons learned to stakeholders (e.g., government and non-government institutions, agricultural producers, businesses, citizens, etc.) using multiple venues and tools.

New technologies, best management practice adoption, and improved water policies are needed to meet future water resources challenges. For agriculture, these include developing water-efficient crop varieties and cropping systems, increasing water capture technologies, developing dryland and limited-irrigation strategies, improving water distribution systems and irrigation efficiencies, and developing economic risk assessment tools that enable producers to identify profitable, water-efficient production options. Agriculture also must protect water resources by reducing off-site transport of sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and pathogens. Similar challenges exist for the urban sector to enhance domestic water conservation, improve irrigation efficiency and management, improve landscape design, expand and optimize water reuse, and improve water capture, while at the same time reducing nonpoint source pollution in stormwater runoff. All citizens will be affected by these outcomes and are critical stakeholders in achieving long-term water security.


  1. Foster multi-state, multi-disciplinary collaboration to address high priority water resource issues by: a. Developing more effective linkages between extension and research personnel at LGUs and with external partners, b. Establishing priorities for LGU work on southern water resource issues, and c. Facilitating collaborative, multi-state proposals and programs to address identified issues, and where appropriate, coordinate use of internal funding on priority projects.
  2. Regularly convene to communicate ideas, projects, and proposals to establish and improve collaborative relationships built to address complex transdisciplinary water issues. Also, a regional conference will be planned to share research, extension, and education resources, and to facilitate broader interaction among faculties and external partners.
  3. Update and add to a web-based portal for LGU water programs, curricula, and resources to enhance technology transfer among institutions and to external partners and clientele.

Procedures and Activities

Thirty-two faculty representing twenty 1862 and 1890 institutions participated in the first face-to- face meeting of SERA 43 in Atlanta, Georgia on March 6-7, 2014. On July 25, 2019, 26 faculty representing 16 Universities and Institutions met at the 2019 Southern Water Resources Conference in College Station, Texas to discuss the renewal of the SERA-43 project. Three subject matter workgroups continued to discuss and address key issues facing the Southern Region 1) Water Quality, 2) Water Quantity/Availability and 3) Ecosystem Services (Watershed Restoration and Management). Each team identified critical water resource issues that will be targeted over the next five years through integrated research, teaching, and outreach program efforts. These objectives include:

Water Quality
1) Continue to research and educate stakeholders on emerging innovative strategies for implementing BMPs for protecting water quality.
2) Conduct and foster the development of programs on issues related to the protection of private water supplies and on-site wastewater management.
3) Provide and produce information on protecting and managing water resources following natural disasters.
4) Measuring, tracking, and treating emerging contaminants.

Water Quantity
1) Provide and produce information on drought-impacted and flood-impacted water supplies following natural disasters.
2) Evaluate agronomic and engineering approaches to maximize irrigation water use efficiency in agronomic crop production systems.
3) Increase awareness to water quantity threats and changes in water supplies, both in and outside the humid southern region.  

Ecosystem Services
1) Assess and communicate how human-altered hydrologic flows affect aquatic biota, habitats, and the ecological services they provide.
2) Examine how agricultural and urban water demands can be most efficiently managed to protect and sustain essential ecosystem services.

Clemson University will provide leadership for development of a SERA 43 website which will serve as a clearinghouse for water resources information and tools. The site will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Listservs have been created for the membership and workgroups and will be utilized for routine communication. Additional members will be added as appropriate.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • New and innovative multi-disciplinary approaches that solve key water challenges in the South through capacity building between LGU research and extension faculty
  • Increased number of cross-institutional research and extension collaborations that result in more effective planning and action to enhance, conserve, and protect water resources.
  • More resilient partnerships with key external entities engaged in water resource planning and management, e.g., federal and state water resource agencies, NGOs, business/industry
  • Increased awareness and knowledge of water resource issues and increased adoption of science-based management practices for water conservation and water quality protection by agricultural and urban stakeholders.
  • Improved water and food security in the South.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The regular/annual meeting will serve as a venue for sharing information and resources among committee members that will then be communicated and/or distributed by members to all participating states, territories, and partner entities as appropriate. Conferences will serve as a broader opportunity to provide training and share information, resources, and lessons learned. The regional website will provide a clearinghouse for water- related resources that can be accessed, adapted, and employed by member institutions, partner entities, and citizen stakeholders throughout the region.


Dr. Diane Boellstorff (Texas A&M) is the Past Chair, Dr. Gary L. Hawkins (University of Georgia) is the Chair and Dr. Mary Love Tagert (Mississippi State) is Vice-Chair. Elections will occur at each annual meeting with new officers installed at the conclusion. 

The committee will also form an internal steering committee comprised of the three chairs and at least two participating members of SERA-43 to help guide the officers in coordinating and building collaboration between committee members.  In addition to the internal steering committee, the development of an external steering committee comprised of Federal and State agencies, organizations, and stakeholders related to the activities of SERA-43 will be explored.

Literature Cited


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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