A clear focus: ASU alum plans for future water use

April 1, 2014

Now working to bring a renewable surface water supply from the Colorado River to Central Arizona, ASU alumnus Jessica Fox has a long-standing interest in sustainability.

As a high school student in in Canandaigua, N.Y., Jessica was fascinated by the intersection between environmental science and economics. Wanting to learn more, she enrolled in State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Several years after graduating with a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy, along with a minor in management science from Syracuse University, she decided to pursue a graduate education in water policy. portrait of ASU alum Jessica Fox Download Full Image

“Water is obviously much more plentiful in the Northeast, and it’s governed differently there, so I wanted to study how water is allocated and managed under scarce conditions in the Western U.S.,” Fox says.

Specifically, Fox became interested in the disconnect between the scientific and political realms. She wanted to research that phenomenon as it related to Western water management, and develop methodologies to deliver scientific information to water managers and policymakers to more accurately inform their decision-making.

After consulting with professors from her undergraduate program and reaching out to professors at Arizona State University, she decided the School of Sustainability was the best fit. Not only would the school’s master of science program build on her background in biophysical sciences and policy, but it would provide her with access to related fields like water policy, climate science, political science and law.

The opportunity to be part of a developing graduate program was an additional attraction, and Fox enrolled in the school’s second graduating class in 2008. During her first semester, she took a water law course that further solidified her interest in the laws and policies that manage Western water.

“It was a difficult course that I took with mainly second and third year law students, but it’s where I learned the most about the legal history and case law that govern how we share and manage our surface water resources in the West,” Fox says.

Fox now works as a water planning analyst for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the largest source of renewable water in the State of Arizona.

“Because CAP serves customers in all sectors across the three most populous counties in the state, I knew they had a large role in state water policy as well, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Fox says.

Analyzing large datasets related to water shortage preparedness and developing a model that simulates water supply and demand scenarios are just a few intriguing aspects of her position. She also spends a good deal of time connecting with customers and stakeholders, ensuring they are included in discussions and decisions that may impact them.

Fox credits her position at the Central Arizona Project in part to her thesis research on reclaimed water generation and reuse in Maricopa County, which she conducted under the guidance of her adviser and committee chair, Rimjhim Aggarwal. Reflecting on the skills she had, then focusing on the skills she needed in order to get the job she ultimately wanted, also contributed to her success.

To students enrolling in the graduate school, Fox says, “A two-year master’s degree program goes by very quickly, so it’s necessary to have a clear focus on what you’re interested in and what you’d like to accomplish. If you can articulate that, the staff and professors at the School of Sustainability will support you to make it happen.”

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


Nonprofit receives ASU sustainability award for transforming vacant lots

April 2, 2014

Can you change the world in 180 seconds? That’s what Social Venture Partners Arizona asked of participants at its annual Fast Pitch, a competition where nonprofits share their vision and strategy in three minutes or less in hopes of winning funding and mentorship. Project Rising, an "urban infill accelerator," won the 2014 Walton Sustainability Solutions Award, given by Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival, for turning vacant lots into places to be.

"The businesses Project Rising engenders from the community offer long-term employment in Arizona, safe lighting for neighborhoods, community gathering places and social connectivity," said Kelly Saunders, a Fast Pitch judge and project coordinator of the Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program of ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. "Project Rising understands that it is more sustainable and successful to create a community with the community." two women holding a check at SVP Fast Pitch competition Download Full Image

Leslie Lindo, co-founder and executive director of Project Rising, observed the negative impacts of urban sprawl as a builder representative in the production home industry. She started Project Rising to foster a stronger, healthier community based on sustainable building.

"About 43 percent of Phoenix is filled with vacant lots," said Lindo, also the first certified sustainable building adviser in Arizona. "We can reactivate these areas with the ideas of the community, the ingenuity of local investors and the knowledge of stakeholders to turn Phoenix into a connector city that serves as a value-driven model for growing urban areas. Rather than building out, we can demonstrate how to best fill in existing spaces."

The Walton Sustainability Solutions Award is one of many the Sustainability Solutions Festival offers throughout the year to support and inspire young students, creative writers and artists, and visionary entrepreneurs who find novel solutions to sustainability challenges using science, art, humanities, politics or economics.

"By offering awards throughout the year, the Sustainability Solutions Festival goes beyond our week of events each February, and accelerates sustainability solutions year-round," said Saunders. "Connections like ours to Project Rising help bring the important work of sustainability innovators to the public for support and education."

Next year’s Sustainability Solutions Festival week, scheduled for Feb. 16-21, 2015, will ask participants to reimagine what’s to come. To join as a partner, contact Kelly Saunders.

Media contact:
Jason Franz, Jason.Franz@asu.edu
Strategic Marketing and Communications