In a state like Connecticut where water seems plentiful, it is easy to take water for granted. As long as clean water comes out of the tap, water issues may not rise to the top of our list of concerns. Although we do have plentiful water for the most part, there are still many reasons to keep water in mind. Who wants to take their kids to the beach in the summer and find that the beach was closed due to high bacteria levels in the water? Or who wants to have their water heater fail due to high salt in their well? And how do we know that we will have enough water to supply the state if we have another severe drought, like we did just three years ago?
The Connecticut Institute of Water Resources (CT IWR) is part of a national network of 54 state and territory water institutes created by the Federal Water Resources Research Act of 1964. Our mission is focused on all aspects of Connecticut’s water resources, which includes use, preservation, and proper management. Why is this important? It means that CT IWR is addressing the most pressing water issues in our state. Every institute receives funds annually from the United States Geological Survey (around $120,000). A small amount is used for staff support, but the majority of funds are given out to support research on critical water issues every year through a competitive process. In addition to helping address these critical water issues, the grants help support training of undergraduate and graduate students to work in water-related fields, and provide support for early career water resources scientists.
The spring issue of the CT IWR newsletter includes an update on the well water testing campaign being conducted, the stand being taken in Connecticut against “forever chemicals,” and a research spotlight on forecasting the resilience of vernal pool ecosystems to climate-mediated hydrological disruption.
What do taking a trip to the beach, testing a well, and planting a new garden have in common? You guessed it—water. UConn is home to a state-wide organization focused on providing Connecticut’s citizens with information and research about all the water resources we encounter in our daily lives.
As the state’s land grant university, UConn’s College of Agriculture Health and Natural Resources became the home of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources (CTIWR) in 1964, and it is housed in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. The institute seeks to resolve state and regional water related problems and provide a strong connection between water resource managers and the academic community. CTIWR also shares water-related research and other information with the general public to bridge the gap between scientists and the community.
The institute is currently expanding and focusing more attention on community outreach with the arrival of new center director, Michael Dietz.
“Our goal is to increase visibility of the water research in language that the general public can understand and use in their daily lives,” says Dietz. “We want to become a one-stop shop for information about all kinds of water-related issues. Where can you go to get your water tested, up to date information about drought or water quality around the state, in addition to research reports and funding opportunities for scientists.”
Recent projects explored leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous from lawns, relationships between metals and organic matter in soils, and quantifying the impact of road salts on wetlands in Eastern Connecticut.
“UConn has some really talented water researchers from different disciplines who can help citizens in our state better understand issues that affect our water resources. Through CTIWR, we’ll make sure that these experts and citizens can come together, speak the same language, and learn from one another.”