In 2016, UD and a group of researchers led from the University of Maryland has been investigating the use of nontraditional and sustainable water use.

Climate variability is placing severe stress on high-quality agricultural irrigation sources such as groundwater. As a result, water reuse and exploring nontraditional irrigation water sources (e.g., recycled water) have become national priorities for agricultural water security and the sustainable production of our food supply.  At the same time, the recent Food Safety Modernization Act is shifting the focus of food safety from responding to foodborne contamination to preventing it. This places great responsibility on agricultural producers, who must meet stricter guidelines for the quality of irrigation water used on food crops. This presents a significant new gap: new sustainable on-farm solutions are needed so that agricultural producers can conserve groundwater through the safe use of nontraditional irrigation water sources.

We are addressing this need through CONSERVE (COordinating Nontraditional Sustainable watER Use in Variable climatEs): A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food, and Health. CONSERVE research, extension and education activities are developed by a leading team of bioscientists, engineers, economists, social-behavioral scientists, law and policy experts, extension specialists, educational media developers and computer scientists. We extend our findings to stakeholders, including farmers, communities, educators, students, and federal, state, and local governments through outreach and engagement.

For additional information on the full project, visit:



Watch a series of videos about the research conducted throughout the course of the project, and a report of the final project findings. Follow this link to go to the YouTube playlist. 


News Stories


Tuk Tuk on the Mall

UD researchers conduct consumer behavior studies in Washington.

UDaily by Courtney Messina
October 10, 2016


Consumer Preference Research at the USDA Farmers Market

The CONSERVE project supported a study on consumer preferences for produce irrigated with various types of traditional and non-traditional water sources.

USDA Blog by Eleanore Starmer (AMS) and Mary Bohman (ERS)
October 4, 2016



UD professors look at water reuse for irrigation and consumer response.

UDaily by Adam Thomas
May 17, 2016


Project Team

Over the course of this project, we’ve had a number of talented researchers involved in this series of projects. Some of the key players and their roles while involved in the project are listed below.

  • Dr. Kent Messer, CONSERVE Project Co-Director
  • Dr. Maik Kecinski, CONSERVE International Project Lead
  • Dr. Tongzhe Li, Postdoctoral Researcher (former)
  • Dr. Olesya Savchenko, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Sean F. Ellis, PhD Candidate & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’19)
  • Huidong Xu, Masters Student & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’17)
  • Alix Schmidt, Masters Student & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’18)
  • Francesca Piccone, Research Associate (former)
  • Julia Parker, Undergraduate Student & 2017 CONSERVE Summer Intern (Class of ’19)
  • Julia Kesselring, Undergraduate Student & 2018 CONSERVE Summer Intern (Class of ’20)
  • Melissa Langer, Undergraduate Student & Research Intern (Class of ’18)
  • Sam Furio, Undergraduate Student & Research Intern (Class of ’18)
  • James Geisler, Undergraduate Student & Programmer (Class of ’18)
  • Carlos Estrada, Undergraduate Student & Programmer (Class of ’18)


Peer-Reviewed Publications

Savchenko, O., M. Kecinski, T. Li, K.D. Messer, and H. Xu. 2018. “Fresh Foods Irrigated with Recycled Water: A Framed Field Experiment on Consumer Response.” Food Policy, 80: 103-112.

Link to article: 


Li, T., J.J. McCluskey, K.D. Messer. 2018. “Ignorance Is Bliss? Experimental Evidence on Wine Produced from Grapes Irrigated with Recycled Water.” Ecological Economics 153: 100-110.

Link to article:

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