Where aquifers and accounting meet

On the surface, aquifers and accounting don't seem to have a lot in common. But if you dig a little deeper, the connection is much more apparent – just ask U of L Faculty of Management accounting instructor and doctoral student Deborah Jarvie. Jarvie is exploring ways to balance human interests and the health of aquifers, the underground layers of permeable rock, sand, silt or clay that have absorbed groundwater.

There is growing concern that aquifers may be increasingly at risk as coalbed methane – a form of natural gas extracted from coalbeds – becomes a more popular alternative to conventional energy like oil and gas. The extraction process requires removing large amounts of water, which could potentially affect aquifers and the environment.

"One of the ways to prevent some of the environmental problems we'll run into – or to help remedy situations that have arisen – is through policy," Jarvie explains.

Jarvie is working on an equilibrium model that will use policy instruments (like incentives or taxation) to encourage companies to be better environmental stewards while maximizing economic gain.

"The model is intended to incorporate and integrate the concerns of the economy, the environment and society, and thereby be used as a tool for determining the best policy mix for all parties concerned," she says.

Her research, once completed, will have direct applications to the corporate world.

"A model such as this would enable businesses to make the most cost-effective decisions based on the policy mixture."