Working with partners

Institute is making every drop count

Story by Melanie Orth

TWRIAs water issues continue to be critical around the globe, the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) maintains its focus on fostering, facilitating, and communicating priority water resources research and outreach programs throughout the world.

The institute was established as the Water Research and Information Center by Texas A&M University System Chancellor Gibb Gilchrist in September 1952. The center was renamed the Water Resources Institute in 1963.

The Water Resources Research Act of 1964 established water resources institutes in each state and provided funds for research on solving water issues. The Texas Legislature and Governor John Connally designated Texas A&M University as the land-grant institution for the home of Texas' water resources research institute. The institute became the Texas Water Resources Institute in 1971.

Today, TWRI is one of 54 institutes in the National Institute for Water Resources (NIWR), which serves as the contact between individual institutes and the federal funding sponsor, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Partial funding and administrative leadership is provided by Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. The institute is administratively linked to the Dwight Look College of Engineering through the institute's associate director of engineering and also to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M.

TWRI addresses the state's priority water issues by working with more than 250 water-related faculty and associates to obtain grants from state and federal agencies and other entities.

"Our projects focus on developing alternative sources of water, making agricultural and urban irrigation more efficient, improving water quality, conserving water resources, maintaining aquatic and riparian habitats, managing watersheds, and shaping water resources policy," said Dr. B.L. Harris, TWRI's acting director. Joining Harris on the leadership team is Kevin Wagner, associate director, and Dr. Ralph Wurbs, associate director of engineering.

The institute currently manages about 90 active projects with more than $24 million in funding. TWRI's project managers are responsible for planning, developing, and implementing water-related research and educational projects. Current TWRI staff managing projects are Allen Berthold, Lucas Gregory, and Danielle Supercinski; Dr. Bill Fox, assistant professor at the Texas AgriLife Blackland Research and Extension Center at Temple; Richard Hoffpauir, research engineering associate; and Aaron Hoff, student technician. Jaime Flores, watershed coordinator, and Gary Bryant, watershed coordinator and Extension program specialist, coordinate specific projects in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Pecos River Basin, respectively.

The institute has established many partnerships that, in addition to the colleges, units, and agencies at Texas A&M, include 12 other Texas univer­sities, three out-of-state univer­sities, more than 40 federal, state, and local governmental organiza­tions, and numerous engineering firms, commodity groups, and environmental organizations.

TWRI's communications team informs the public of innovative water research and education programs through its websites, newsletters, expert directories, technical reports, fact sheets, educational materials, and other publications. Most can be viewed or downloaded by visiting the website at twri.tamu.edu. The institute recently started publishing a digital journal and participating in a digital water library (see related story). The communications team is Kathy Wythe, communications manager; Leslie Lee, program assistant; Jaclyn Tech, software applications manager; Courtney Swyden, training program coordinator; and Supercinski.

TWRI's Water Resources Training Program offers training  courses on the latest computer technologies and products of university research to water resource professionals. Swyden heads up this program (see related story).

TWRI awards research funds to graduate students from Texas universities through grants funded by the USGS Water Resources Research Program and the W.G. Mills Scholarship Program (see related story).

The institute staff also includes Rosemary Payton, assistant to the institute director; Sarah Seidel, business coordinator; Kathy Woodward, office associate; and Michael Foggit,systems administrator. "These valuable employees work hard to keep the institute on track and running smoothly," Harris said.

"Our vision for the institute is to remain one of the top water resources institutes of NIWR, respected by faculty and administrators across the state and nation as a valuable partner for research and outreach programs," Harris said. "We plan to be successful in obtaining and managing water project funding and highly valued as a source of scientifically valid information by those seeking or needing information. We also plan to continue facilitating scholarships, internships, and undergraduate and graduate programs involving water."

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