Indiana State University Newsroom

Environmental Economist to speak on river-basin regulation and small-scale hydropower

February 26, 2013

Lea-Rachel Kosnik, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will give two public lectures on small-scale hydropower and the regulatory environment in Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library's Events Area on March 6.

Kosnik's first talk at 10 a.m. will focus on small-scale hydroelectric power and river-basin regulation while her noon talk will concern completeness of contracts for small-scale hydropower development. Both talks are free and open to the public.

Debra Israel, Indiana State associate professor of economics, said she was excited to bring Kosnik to speak to students and the community.

"Her work on river basin regulation and small scale hydropower will show students a practical application of the environmental economics concepts that they have been learning in class," Israel said. "When we think of hydropower we usually think of large dams which are associated with large environmental impacts -- the surprising aspect of Dr. Kosnik's area of research is that small scale hydropower has the potential as an alternate energy source without major environmental disruption."

Kosnik's research also examines the regulatory environment, using small scale hydropower as an example, but with broader implications for other alternate energy technologies.

"Given the interest on campus in alternative energy, now symbolized in our new wind turbine, and the excitement in Terre Haute about the 2013 Year of the River, this is a perfect time to bring in a speaker who is thinking about river basin regulation in innovative ways," Israel said.

In Kosnik's 10 a.m. talk, "River Basin Regulation and Small Scale Hydropower," she will discuss the demands such as irrigation, recreation, hydropower and municipal use, made on the United States' limited water resources.

"Looking forward, this situation of water resource scarcity is only projected to worsen as climate change effects and continued population growth are added to the mix," Kosnik wrote in her presentation's abstract.

Kosnik conducted an assessment of river-basin water regulation using small scale hydropower permitting in the United States to see if reform was needed. Her research found that reform is essential.

In the noon brownbag session, Kosnik will speak on "Determinants of Contract Completeness: A Renewable Energy Application."

"There is a tradeoff that must be addressed any time a contract is written; whether or not to make a contract flexible but incomplete or rigid but comprehensive," she said in the presentation's abstract.

She investigated hydroelectric contracts spanning nearly three decades and found that as environmental concerns increase so did contract flexibility. Her presentation will focus on the historical look of U.S. hydroelectric dam license as it ages and responds to growing environmental concerns.

Kosnik joined the economics department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2004, after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her main areas of expertise include environmental economics, energy economics, and behavioral economics. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Ankara, Turkey. She is a member of the American Economic Association, the Midwest Economics Association, the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics, and the Transportation and Public Utilities Group.

The talks are sponsored by Interdisciplinary Programs, the department of economics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Foundational Studies Program and Cunningham Memorial Library.

Contact: Debra Israel, Indiana State University, associate professor of economics, at 812-237-2165 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or