Sandia LabNews

Sandia beating swords into plowshares- really

Sandia is getting into agriculture, but don’t look for crops or herds or flocks back toward Coyote Canyon. Rather, Sandians will be promoting sustainable development through the use of 20 years of experience in waste management and environmental risk.

The vehicle for this different direction is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Sandia and ACDI/VOCA – formerly known as Agriculture Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance. The MOU supports Sandia’s Energy and Critical Infrastructure goal of applying science and technology capabilities to targeted infrastructures such as water systems.

Leveraging each other’s strengths

The MOU will allow the partners to use each other’s strengths to foster sustainable development by working "cooperatively to investigate, develop, and implement state-of-the-art decision analysis, risk assessment, uncertainty analysis, and other decision-support approaches and tools" to help governments and private industry "in developing better products and mak(ing) better environmental and engineering decisions."

Sandia has been assessing opportunities for applying its environmental and waste management experience to water resource management, one of the critical infrastructures. "In all of the water resource management problems, agriculture came up as a key problem," says Paul Davis (6416). "We became interested in ACDI/VOCA because of their agricultural expertise, as well as their ability to transfer technology to the end users."

He says the organization has experience in dealing with foreign governments and is positioned well to transfer technology to organizations that can exploit it.

The new partnership initially targeted three potentially successful collaborative efforts:

· The Lake Victoria Environmental Management project, funded by the World Bank – The huge African lake is "dying" because of the ever-growing population that depends on it. The goal is to clean up existing pollution, reduce the pollution flowing into it, reverse the trend toward reduced biodiversity, stabilize its fisheries, and establish a natural resource management plan aimed at maintaining the lake as a healthy resource.

· The Environmental Partnerships Program for Central/Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States, funded by the US Agency for International Development (AID) – The goal of this program is to address the continuing need for strengthening environmental policies and regulatory frameworks in Central/Eastern Europe and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and promoting market-oriented solutions to environmental problems.

· The Black Sea environmental project, also funded by AID – The problems faced by the Black Sea are similar to those of Lake Victoria but include the challenge of dealing with the enormous volume of industrial waste from the Danube River system.

Another problem area is Russia’s once-pristine Lake Baikal, which holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water but is increasingly burdened with pollution. Vice President Al Gore may visit Lake Baikal sometime this year in an effort to raise awareness of its growing problems, which Paul says are potential targets of the partnership’s expertise.

"We want to look at these and similar issues involving natural resources and see how we can apply our technology to effect favorable change," says David Moran (6416). "It’s a new direction for Sandia and it gives us an opportunity to apply skills gained over 20 years of waste management and environmental risk assessment."