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Manqing Shao | Image: Courtesy of Manqing Shao

Manqing Shao, a doctoral student in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University, was awarded a 2020-21 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) Graduate Student Grant funded by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Shao’s project was one of six to be selected for the grant. She will research the effects of evaporation from different future climate change scenarios on water reservoirs, specifically 12 primary reservoirs in the Upper Trinity Basin, which supplies water to about a quarter of the Texas population, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“Texas regional water planners consider projected water demand and reservoir sedimentation when evaluating future surface water availability, but not the impacts of climate change on hydrologic conditions and reservoir evaporation losses,” Shao said.

In Texas, around 67% of the available surface water comes from reservoirs. In 2011, during the worst one-year drought on record for the state, the net evaporation loss from 188 major water supply reservoirs in Texas was 5.83 million acre-feet, which is greater than the state’s highest annual municipal water use of 4.97 million acre-feet.

This research and framework will provide modeling tools, data and information that water resources managers and regional water planners can use to evaluate future long-term trends in water availability. It will also allow for the development of regional drought planning and response strategies and informed decisions on methods to conserve the storage of individual reservoirs.

Climate change is also projected to intensify short- and long-term drought risk across the United States. According to Shao, understanding how climate change could impact Texas surface water availability, mainly through changes in reservoir evaporation, is essential for developing new strategies in response to potential water shortages.

"It is tremendously encouraging to be awarded this fellowship. Many thanks to TWRI and USGS for noticing the potential of this proposed research," she said. "I appreciate the guidance and help from Dr. Huilin Gao, Dr. Gang Zhao, Dr. Nelun Fernando and Dr. John Zhu. I will work hard on this research on Texas water resources."