Colorado State University Receives $1.2 Million from USDA to Further Critical Water Resource Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Colorado State University two grants totaling $1.2 million to aid in research addressing critical water resource issues – the only university in Colorado to receive part of the $11 million distributed by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The grants are distributed through the National Integrated Water Quality Program, which aims to address issues such as water quality protection and water conservation.

“Cities, communities and rural areas across the nation depend on a safe and abundant supply of water for drinking and cooking,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA news release. “This research will play a vital role in our understanding of the part water plays in the ecosystem and developing tools and strategies to effectively manage our water resources.”

The National Integrated Water Quality Program addresses critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urban watersheds through research, education and extension projects and programs.

Colorado State University projects:

Coordinated Regional Water Resources Programming for the Northern Plains and Mountains Region

Reagan Waskom, CSU professor in civil engineering and soil and crop sciences and director of the Colorado Water Institute, is lead researcher for this project, which was awarded $667,000 as the second year installment of a $2.4 million project focused on water and water quality. Waskom leads a project that includes six land-grant universities – Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming- that make up the Northern Plains and Mountains Regions.

These universities have a unique role in protecting and improving water resources by facilitating development, delivery and implementation of new and existing practices throughout the region. However, due to time and resource restraints, efficiency must be improved through coordination, partnerships and leveraging financial resources. This project creates a structure for regional and national coordination to reduce program cost and make research, education and extension resources of the land-grant system more accessible at the local level.

Expected outcomes/impacts from this project include: increased public knowledge of human and livestock water quality; increased agricultural water conservation opportunities; increased irrigation water delivery efficiency; and improved water quality monitoring plans and data collection throughout the region.

A Multi Criteria Decision Tool for the Assessment and Planning of Watershed Conservation Practices

Mazdak Arabi, CSU civil and environmental engineering professor, is lead researcher for this project that was awarded $615,000 as part of the 2009 USDA national and watershed scale grants. This integrated study aims to develop and disseminate an innovative open-source web technology called eRAMS that enhances decision makers’ capacity to target conservation practices for sediment, nutrient and pesticide control.

This project takes technology transfer to a whole new level because end users don’t need new software or hardware to obtain data, develop appropriate models, and perform scenario analysis and optimization studies. Watershed planners will benefit from vast data resources and models that are currently accessible to the research community and can assess the costs and conservation benefits of alternative management scenarios.

Although efforts will initially be focused in the South Platte River Basin in Colorado, the technology will be applicable to two watersheds in Indiana and North Carolina with significantly different ecohydrologic characteristics. Additionally, educational and outreach materials will be developed and used in two courses at CSU and in national workshops.