The Water Resources Research Institutes collectively constitute the country’s single largest training program for water scientists, technicians, and engineers.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, have introduced a bill (S. 653) to reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Water Resources Research Amendments Act (WRRA) will provide continued support for important research on state and regional water challenges, provide training for hydrologists and other water-related scientists and engineers, and fund public outreach and education on water issues. Each institute is located at a land grant university or another university designated by the governor. First authorized in 1964, WRRA was most recently reauthorized in 2006, in PL 109-471. The current authorization expired in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.
“Floods, droughts, and water degradation issues have become increasingly severe and widespread. Simultaneously, water resources are ever more critical for production of resources, economic stability, and our citizens’ health and well-being. Every American depends on clean, safe water at home and at work, but to many, clean water is a relatively rare and invaluable resource,” said Senator Cardin. “A half century after the Water Resources Research grant program was first put in place, this program is just as relevant to our economy and our environment, and just as critical to the health and safety of our communities,” said Senator Cardin.
“Although this is a very small grant program, it allows Arkansas and other states to solve serious problems related to our water needs. For example, in Arkansas, the program allows researchers at the Arkansas Water Resources Center to study how we can grow crops while using less water and lowering costs,” Senator Boozman said. “Each federal dollar spent must be matched with two non-federal dollars. This is the highest match requirement of any federal research program. As a result, this program is a cost-effective way of solving water quality and quantity problems.”
Water Resources Research Amendments Act authorizes $7,500,000 per year for grants to each institute to fund research that fosters: (a) improvements in water supply reliability; (b) the exploration of new ideas that address water problems or expand understanding of water and water-related phenomena; (c) the entry of new scientists, engineers and technicians into water resources field; and the dissemination of research to water managers and the public. Grants must be matched by two-to-one with non-federal funding. In FY 2010, Congress appropriated approximately $5,500,000 for this grant program resulting in a $92,335 base grant for each institute.
An independent review panel has judged that the Water Resources Research Institutes command significant funding leverage for the modest amount of appropriations required to support it.
WRRA further authorizes a national competitive grant program to address regional water issues that is authorized at $1,500,000 per year. In FY 2010 approximately $1,000,000 was appropriated. These competitive grants must be matched one-to-one with non-federal funding.
WRRA reauthorizes both research grant programs for an additional five years at the same funding levels. It also adds green infrastructure research and development as one focus of the program, expands the existing program reporting requirement to include status reporting on the grant funding matches, and makes other technical improvements.
In Maryland, several of the tools used for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay were products of these same grants in previous years. WRRA Researchers across the Mid-Atlantic States have developed innovative ways to keep the Chesapeake waters cleaner through urban stormwater treatment, improved roadway design, and eco-friendly poultry farming practices. WRRA-funded projects maximize cost-effective solutions for similar water resource issues across the country. Funding for WRRA is, incontrovertibly, a necessary and pragmatic investment in the future of our water resources.