Mirit Friedman, an urban and regional planning doctoral student, has been awarded a Decision, Risk and Management Science Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to the NSF, “The Decision, Risk and Management Sciences Program (DRMS) supports scientific research directed at increasing understanding and effectiveness of decision making by individuals, groups, organizations, and society. DRMS supports research with solid foundations in theories and methods of the social and behavioral sciences.”
Friedman’s work looks at the growing challenge of managing aging dams in the United States. While changes in land use, poor maintenance records, expensive upgrades, and aging structures have long plagued dam management, climate change heightens the threat of unanticipated water loads. Despite the increasing risks of dam failures, insufficient public funding for proactively managing dam safety and highly variable state-level dam safety regulations add precarity to the future of dams. For local governments, the burden of dam management gets added to other infrastructural and community needs, and they are forced to make difficult tradeoffs between dam-related community benefits, such as flood control and water storage, and dam failure risks that threaten communities downstream.
However, the factors influencing local government dam management decisions are not well understood and are the focus of Friedman’s study. Friedman aims to answer the questions of what factors lead local governments to proactively manage their aging and failing dams, and what makes these factors salient in getting local governments to remove or modify their dams. As the potential dangers of dam failure increase with climate change, the findings from this research will inform policies to reduce failure risks and decision-making strategies for improved dam management.
“I am honored to receive this Decision, Risk and Management Science Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation. These funds will allow me to immerse myself in dam management challenges that local governments face by supporting critical research functions such as site visits to four local governments and their dams,” said Friedman.