March 01, 2022
By Kenny Gerling | MU News Bureau
The University of Missouri today announced the creation of the Missouri Water Center, a central hub for research on the state’s water resources. The new academic center will combine existing resources and improve coordination across campus — tackling emerging water quality issues and factors that contributed to record flooding in 2019 and years of persistent drought — as well as facilitate new collaborations among faculty, government and industry partners.
The Missouri Water Center was created by merging two existing centers at MU: The Missouri Water Resource Research Center in the College of Engineering and the Center for Watershed Management and Water Quality in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR). The combined center will bring together the best of the university’s existing water scholarship — all with the goal of protecting and preserving Missouri’s water resources.
“Mizzou Engineering has a proud tradition of helping the state, region and nation solve water problems,” said Noah Manring, dean of the College of Engineering. “We look forward to leveraging that expertise and working with cross-campus peers to further contribute to the health and usability of our water resources.”
The vision for the new center was developed after reaching out to more than 200 faculty members for feedback, as well as hosting discussions with state and federal agency leaders, industry professionals and community members who are invested in Missouri’s extensive network of waterways. The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers run collectively for more than 1,000 miles through the state, and almost half of all residents get their drinking water from these or smaller rivers.
“Our Missouri Water Center will address real and current issues facing our stakeholders,” said Christopher Daubert, vice chancellor and dean of CAFNR. “The collaborations with experts across Mizzou, coupled with ongoing partnerships among industry and agencies, means we will address the most pressing concerns for Missourians when it comes to water quality, quantity and resources.”
The center is guided by an external advisory committee made up of leaders in Missouri’s water management communities. The center will have four core activities:
- Serving as the authority for Missouri’s water research needs through coordination with partners such as the Missouri Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture — developing new statewide networks that will enhance water quality and provide better protection from floods and droughts
- Coordinating large water-related grants across MU and UM System universities
- Sharing expertise with stakeholders, MU faculty, MU Extension specialists and public agency partners
- Developing new collaborations with other institutes of higher education
“We are blessed to have two of the most important rivers in the world roll through our state, but farming along the Missouri and Mississippi also comes with additional challenges and responsibilities,” Missouri Agriculture Director and advisory committee member Chris Chinn said. “The Missouri Water Center provides a new opportunity to learn from past experience, apply multi-disciplinary expertise, and work closely with partner agencies and stakeholders. We are happy for the collaboration focused on water and its importance. By working together, we can address key issues, including recommendations from Governor Parson’s Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group.”
“The creation of one Water Center at the University of Missouri will complement state efforts, such as Governor Parson’s newly announced Missouri Hydrology Information Center,” Department of Natural Resources Director and advisory committee member Dru Buntin said. “This will build upon the existing strong partnership between MU and state government in solving the water management challenges most relevant to Missourians.”
Among the Missouri Water Center leadership team is Dan Cassidy, executive director of external partnerships for the center, who will join Tom Waters and Brian Klippenstein — fellow members of the leadership team and consultants — in working directly with stakeholder-partners. Cassidy said there is tremendous interest among communities in enhancing flood control and water transportation, as well as using innovative technologies that build economic opportunity.
“Modernizing infrastructure for the 21st century will prevent continued widespread damage and economic losses throughout the state,” Cassidy said.
The Missouri Water Center is the latest development in MU’s long history of supporting water resource management, said Baolin Deng, William Andrew Davidson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the new center.
“There’s a synergy that’s brought out in uniting our centers,” Deng said. “The Missouri Water Center acknowledges our shared history and complementary faculty expertise while better positioning us to address future challenges, both on water quantity and water quality.”
Damon Hall, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering and fellow co-director of the center, said the increasing severity of both floods and droughts could be relieved by improving the monitoring and management of the state’s water. Hall added that given the existing collaborations between the MU water centers, the merger will help increase efficiency, better meet regional research needs and provide a platform for greater coordination among faculty research programs.
“While our water faculty are known nationally and internationally for their individual work, the Missouri Water Center is designed to elevate our collaboration,” said Hall. “It will anchor the University as a national leader on water-related issues.”