Venkat Sridhar, a biological systems engineering professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to study in India, where he will conduct hydrological assessments on the Ganges and Cauvery river basins to quantify water availability and demand for agriculture.

The Ganges is revered as a holy river in India, and the Cauvery River basin serves as a significant rice-producing region for southern India. The Cauvery River is one of the few rivers that is shared by two states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Because of climate change and climate variability, these regions experience high variability in precipitation, leading to uncertain river flows and difficulties supplying enough water for agriculture. Activities like this have the potential to cause unrest in the region, affecting more than 300 million people.

“This research will help us in responding to changing water use and availability scenarios and improve our ability to respond to changing conditions of water use and availability,” Sridhar said.

Sridhar’s research has broader implications for society by improving the understanding of consumption and providing measures to implement adaptive water management policies, which is typically a source of contention for various water-stressed river basins nationally and internationally.

Water supply projections from this study will support the efforts of various agencies, including the Central Water Commission of India and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in making seasonal forecasts, developing models, and conducting long-term planning. He will be hosted by the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.

“Remote sensing-based crop water demand or evapotranspiration estimations are critical for better water management because neither state has enough ground observations to quantify water availability and demand for agriculture,” Sridhar said.

Sridhar is one of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2021-22 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 60 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 88 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 75 who have been honored as MacArthur Fellows.

At Virginia Tech, the program is administered through the Global Education Office. Visit the Fulbright Program’s website to learn more.

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