Water Institutes Come Together to Show Impact of WRRI Program

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Release

Water resources research institutes are required to leverage each dollar of federal support with two dollars of non-federal support. As a result, the WRRI program is one of the most cost-effective, cost-shared national research programs in the country.

Water resources research institutes are required to leverage each dollar of federal support with two dollars of non-federal support. As a result, the WRRI program is one of the most cost-effective, cost-shared national research programs in the country.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Outreach, communication, storytelling. These are important functions for any organization trying to get their message out. If the organization doesn’t do a good job telling their story people will fill that information gap with rumors, gossip or, perhaps even worse, they won’t know you exist. This is especially true when communicating the importance and impact of a program to members of Congress.

Each year, directors from the 54 water resources research institutes meet in Washington, D.C. at the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) Annual Meeting. The institutes represent each state, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

This year’s meeting was held in February and served as an important opportunity for the NIWR directors to meet with legislators and show the impact that the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) program has across the country.

“With the intense competition for the federal funding that does exist in congress, it’s important that people understand what the [WRRI] program does and what it offers,” said Dr. Richard Cruse, NIWR president and director of the Iowa Water Center. “In the absence of sharing our story, it’s easy for someone to lose site of the importance of this program.”

Water resources research institutes are required to leverage each dollar of federal support with two dollars of non-federal support. As a result, the WRRI program is one of the most cost-effective, cost-shared national research programs in the country.

The WRRI program differs from other water research programs in that the NIWR network represents the only authorized federal-state program that focuses on applied water resource research, education, training, and outreach.

“A critical nature of this program is that there is a grass roots, or bottom up, decision on what is going to be funded,” said Cruse. “Most of the other programs are decided in Washington, D.C. and the program panels decide what the research is going to be about. The WRRI program is decided at the state level.”

This is important because the staff at the institutes and the advisory panels that guide them are made up of people who live in the state and make decisions informed by research outcomes. They know firsthand the most important issues facing water users in their state.

Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, pointed out that water research priorities, at the state level, change according to industry and market changes, regulatory initiatives and crises.

“These priority changes can happen quickly and the WRRI program allows a rapid response to state legislatures, agencies, industry and the public,” said Ziemkiewicz. “This is a need that simply cannot be filled through programs that focus on national priorities.”

Water problems, however, are not bound by state borders but by the watersheds in which they reside. That’s why collaboration among institutes is one of the most distinctive aspects of the WRRI program; states working together to solve local, regional and national water issues. According to Ziemkiewicz, just as each institute provides a state level focus for water research, collaborations among institutes within a region helps draw research talent toward trans-boundary water issues and develop solutions for federal and state policy makers.

-WVWRI-

as/3/28/16

Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of total trihalomethane in drinking water in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in News, Press Release

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Additional testing by the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) shows acceptable levels of total trihalomethane (THM) in drinking water at Beth Center Elementary and High Schools in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Those and nine other locations throughout Washington and Greene counties were sampled in February with similar results.

Last November, WVWRI tested samples collected at Beth Center Elementary and Beth Center High School that showed high THM levels.

Total THMs are regulated in drinking water supplied by water authorities. They form when water is chlorinated to control microbial pathogens. Chlorine reacts with methane in the water which allows the halogens-chloride and bromide to attach and form THM. There are four THMs with varying amounts of chloride and bromide.

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the amount of total THM delivered to customers to 80 micrograms/liter when averaged over a year. Pennsylvania regulations require sampling for THM every three months and compliance is based on the average of the four most recent quarterly samples. So, while the November readings were reason for concern, further sampling was needed to determine whether an immediate threat existed.

The WVWRI, with support from the Colcom Foundation, conducted a one-month long effort to determine THM levels in five water systems along the Monongahela River from Brownsville, Pennsylvania to the West Virginia state line. Included were: Pennsylvania American Water at Brownsville, Charleroi, Tri-County, Southwestern Pa. and East Dunkard Water Authorities.

Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVWRI at West Virginia University said four weekly samples were taken in February 2016 in the Monongahela River upstream of the water system intakes and at 11 locations throughout the distribution networks including the Beth Center Elementary and High Schools, where last November’s high readings were found. Both schools are served by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority, which according to state records is in compliance with total THM standards. Flow in the Monongahela River during that period ranged from about 5,000 to 37,000 cfs, averaging a little over 20,000 cfs.

Ziemkiewicz commented that the flow was “high but not unusual for winter on the Mon.”

“There’s always a concern that pollutants are concentrated during low flows and diluted during high flows, and during the November 2015 sampling flow was 2,400 cfs. Serious low flow on the upper Mon is below 1,000 cfs.”

Ziemkiewicz pointed out that the February sampling results did not find any total THM exceedances.

“We were concerned that the high November readings at the Beth Center schools might indicate a trend of increasing THM and we had a couple readings [taken in the Tri-County Water Authority system] in the 70 microgram/liter range in February but none in excess of the 80 microgram limit,” said Ziemkiewicz. “This suggests seasonal exceedances but when averaged out over the year would indicate compliance with water quality standards.”

“That is consistent with PADEP’s findings for the Southwestern Pa. Water Authority which services the Beth Center schools. November’s high total THM levels coincided with late summer/autumn low flows, when water treatment systems are likely to use higher rates of chlorination.”

-WVWRI-

Contact: Paul Ziemkiewicz, Ph.D., Director, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958, pziemkie@wvu.edu

as/3/22/16

Updated: 3/31/16

WVU teams up with the Boy Scouts to develop STEM program at Summit Bechtel Reserve

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Release

Coordinated by WVWRI, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

Coordinated by WVWRI, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia Water Research Institute Director Paul Ziemkiewicz announced today a project to establish an environmental science, technology, engineering, and math education and research program with the Boy Scouts of America’s Bechtel Summit Reserve near Oak Hill, West Virginia.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will introduce scouts and their adult leaders to the environmental STEM field, particularly the aquatic sciences, while using the site as an ecology observatory and laboratory.

The team will include Todd Petty, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, Jim Anderson, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, Nicolas Zegre, associate professor of forest hydrology, and Richard Thomas, professor of biology.

Through the program, scouts will earn merit badges while learning about ecology, biology, water science, wildlife and wetlands. Scouts will receive hands-on training through taking measurements, entering data and plotting simple graphs to see the results.

Fred King, vice president for research at WVU, is a strong supporter of the program. “This is a great opportunity to introduce a new generation of leaders to the environmental sciences, West Virginia and West Virginia University. They will find that we have a beautiful state and an outstanding natural laboratory to pursue meaningful studies while receiving hands on guidance from our leading environmental faculty.”

The reserve is the BSA’s newest high-adventure camp and is adjacent to the New River Gorge National River and more than 13 miles of the property border the park, providing access to more than 70,000 acres of managed, Appalachian highlands wilderness beyond the summit property. Up to 50,000 scouts are expected to be on site for major events such as the National Scout Jamboree, which typically takes place in July, with about 20,000 cycling through the site every two weeks during the remainder of the summer.

Federal funding of this project is provided through the U.S. Geological Survey’s section 104b program. The USGS awards 104b grants to State Water Research Institutes that have been established in each of the 50 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984. The West Virginia Water Research Institute, a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University, serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. WVWRI is the premiere water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.

-WVWRI-

as03/21/16