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Flipping the water conversation

ASU's FutureH2O initiative to have an impact locally, nationally, globally.
FutureH2O to make Phoenix service area a model for reducing outdoor water use.
Incentivizing efficiency and conservation to be part of initiative's approach.
March 22, 2016

New 5-year ASU water initiative, announced today at White House summit, will focus on abundance instead of scarcity

Arizona State University today announced a five-year initiative, FutureH2O, to flip the global conversation about water on its head and focus on the abundance of water and how to create it instead of hand-wringing about scarcity.

ASU will work with large corporate water consumers to restore what they use, train a new generation of leaders on water usage, turn a Phoenix area municipality into a model for reducing outdoor water use and maximize sensors, data and the Internet around the world to instantly manage water and hydropower.

John Sabo, an ASU professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the new initiative, led the announcement at today’s White House Water Summit.

“FutureH2O will look for new opportunities to harness the abundance of water on the planet,” said Sabo, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. “Some of these opportunities are things you’d expect us to do as a university, like training the next generation of water managers. But some of the other opportunities are things that ASU is uniquely poised to do.”

“We want to learn how to make it ‘cool’ to conserve. But, more importantly, we need to figure out how to finance the transition to this future. FutureH2O plans to be in the middle of that conversation whether it’s happening in our backyard, on a farm or in the developing world.”
— ASU professor John Sabo, director of the new FutureH2O initiative

ASU’s work with the private sector, such as technology transfer and helping incubate businesses, and its strong relationships with all levels of government, enable the university to create the partnerships necessary to incentivize efficiency and conservation.

“We want to learn how to make it ‘cool’ to conserve,” Sabo said. “But, more importantly, we need to figure out how to finance the transition to this future. FutureH2O plans to be in the middle of that conversation whether it’s happening in our backyard, on a farm or in the developing world.”

The initiative will work towards the following five goals:

• Develop public-private partnerships to fund an urban landscape design and renovation campaign that reduces residential outdoor water use in at least one Phoenix metro service area by a third by 2025.

• Deliver research and advice to at least 10 of the largest corporate water users in the U.S. to scope, plan and implement restoration projects at scales that improve water reliability in stressed water basins nationwide.

• Develop online learning platforms for undergraduate and professional clients that cross-train the next generation of water leaders. They will collaborate with energy leaders to find solutions to the complex demands of water usage in producing food and energy, and train 1,000 such leaders across the U.S. Sunbelt in the next 10 years.

• Build a food-energy-water technology test bed at ASU and use demonstration projects from this test bed as game-changers for the future of agriculture in the arid Southwest.

• Transform how institutions in the U.S. and developing world embrace, deploy, use and share sensors, data and the Internet of Things to improve real-time management of water, hydropower, fisheries and agriculture in large river basins.

A second ASU commitment that will be made at the White House Summit is on SciStarter, a research affiliate of ASU’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society (ASU CENTSS). Darlene Cavalier of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society said ASU is committing to advance citizen science to build a sustainable water future by:

• Expanding the network and impact of citizen science, SciStarter has trained more than 40 citizen-science teams (more than 1,700 individuals) nationwide to take soil-moisture measurements to validate data captured by NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite. SciStarter will train an additional 60 teams over the next 18 months — including at least one team in every U.S. state.

• Establishing a “Lending Library” of soil-moisture monitoring equipment, SciStarter will launch programs in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix — to partner with local science museums and libraries to provide training on the equipment. These cities will serve as pilot projects to establish regional networks of lending libraries anchored in science museums across the country.

The White House event will be webcast live at

Top photo by Robbie Ribeiro/

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Arizonans head to the polls

ASU professor Kim Fridkin on what to expect out of today's primary in Arizona.
March 22, 2016

ASU professor Kim Fridkin discusses Arizona's turn in the political spotlight during Tuesday's presidential preference election

Arizona doesn’t usually get this much of a voice.
In a typical presidential election year, voters in the Grand Canyon State go to the polls on the day of the Arizona primary — if they choose to vote at all — to concur with or dissent from a fait accompli. Our fellow citizens in the states with primaries preceding our own have usually already narrowed the field to a single contender on each the Republican and Democratic side.
But this, as has been noted by all manner of political pundit, is not a typical presidential election year.
And so the political circus is here in Arizona with three candidates still in the hunt on the Republican side and two Democrats still alive.
Yes, businessman Donald Trump made relatively quick work of what was an unwieldy Republican field and looks all but assured to have the most delegates when his party convenes in Cleveland for the nominating convention.
But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) are sticking around to play spoilers, hoping to prevent him from mathematically clinching the nomination. If they succeed, their line of reasoning argues, then a vote in an open convention might pick someone other than Trump to be the GOP standard-bearer.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also the overwhelming favorite on her side of the aisle, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) is still drawing large and enthusiastic crowds of young voters attracted to his self-identified socialist political movement.
So this year Arizonans will get to weigh in on the inevitability of Trump and Clinton, and the extent to which they want the primary process to play out a little longer.
Kim Fridkin, professor in the School of Politics and Global StudiesThe School of Politics and Global Studies is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences., has been watching this all unfold and keeping ASU Now honest on what’s important and what is just noise.
Welcome to presidential preference electionPrimary day in Arizona is officially called the presidential preference election. day.

Question: Arizonans are playing an unusually prominent role in the national primary process this year. So where are we now with this election?

Answer: Hillary Clinton is definitely the front-runner in the Democratic nomination race, and it is unlikely — but not mathematically impossible — for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination.  The Democratic Party has non-elected superdelegatesSuperdelegates are party leaders — elected officials, for example — who get a vote at the convention. They usually pledge their support to one candidate or another, but they are technically allowed to change their votes. Right now, Secretary Clinton has the vast majority of the superdelegates supporting her candidacy. so there will not be a contested convention.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is definitely the front-runner, but it is not impossible for Ted Cruz to win the nomination — though it is highly unlikely. Since Donald Trump is a very divisive figure in the Republican Party, if he does not obtain the majority of the delegates before the Convention, it is likely that the Republican Convention will be a contested convention. (The Republican Party does not have superdelegates).  

Q: Already election officials in Maricopa and Pima counties are saying that voter turnout could be as high as 60 to 65 percent. Do you get the sense that people are excited to vote for the current crop of candidates, or against them?

A: I don’t really have a sense of a great deal of excitement, but more than in past Arizona presidential primaries because the nomination is not over — although it is almost settled. So, I am not sure how high the turnout will be. However, the candidates have been spending some time in Arizona — which is also unusual — with visits this weekend by the front-runners as well as Bernie Sanders. And the candidates seem to spending a fair amount of money on television commercials. So turnout may be high, but I don’t think it will reach 60 percent. But we'll see. 

Q: Some in the Democratic Party have started calling for Sen. Sanders to drop out of the race and help Hillary Clinton gear up for a battle against Trump. Is there a risk in alienating his supporters?

A: I have done research recently on the 2008 campaign with some colleagues, and this research suggests that Clinton supporters were somewhat less likely to participate in the November election, controlling for a host of rival factors. This research suggests that divisive primaries can lead people to stay home in the general election. And, this is a potential drawback of an extended nomination campaign on the Republican and Democratic sides. However, neither of the leading candidates has secured the nomination, so I don’t think Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race and I don’t think John Kasich should drop out on the Republican side. 

Q: What remain the biggest issues for Republican voters? Does that give any particular candidate an edge?

A: In Arizona, I think the biggest issues are probably immigration and security (for Democrats and Republicans), and economic inequality and education (on the Democratic side). While Trump may have an advantage nationally on immigration, I think Arizona voters are more sophisticated on this issue, so I am not sure that Trump’s message on immigration gives him an advantage in Arizona. Instead, Trump’s outsider image and “tell it like it is” persona may be attractive to conservative and moderate voters. I think Trump has momentum and dominates media coverage, and these factors will give him an advantage today. On the Democratic side, I think the election will be closer, since Bernie Sanders is very popular with younger voters. So if there’s a high turnout on the Democratic side, that will be to his benefit.

Q: So who do you think wins the Republican and Democratic primaries?

A: I think Clinton will win and I think Trump will win, even though it’s a closed primaryA closed primary is one in which only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in their party's primary. Some states, including New Hampshire, have open primaries, where independents can choose which side they would like to vote in. Donald Trump has typically done better in states with open primaries. But it's all relative, because he's doing quite well. .  

Top photo by Kristen Price/