The Water Resources Research Center supports research, education, and outreach on water resources issues of state, regional, and national importance as part of the national system of institutes authorized under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964. Established in 1965, the Center is now part of the Center for Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Center encourages an interdisciplinary approach to resolving state and regional water problems and has involved the University system and many other Massachusetts colleges and universities in Center research.
The Center supports faculty research and training of graduate students and is a national leader in the use of volunteers for high quality water quality monitoring of surface waters. The primary objectives of the Center are to:
- Serve as liaison between federal, state, and local representatives and water/environment expertise at UMass Amherst
- Address water resources needs of the Commonwealth and New England through research, creative partnerships, and information transfer
- Actively engage federal and state agencies in interdisciplinary, University water resources research, education, and outreach efforts.
The Center operates a statewide competitive grants program open to all academic institutions in Massachusetts.
The Center cooperates with the UMass Extension Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation program to coordinate stream crossings surveys in order to document barriers to stream continuity in the region.
From 1983 to 1993 and again from 2000 to the present, the Center has conducted the internationally recognized Acid Rain Monitoring Project. The initial objective was to provide a complete evaluation of the impact of acid deposition on the surface waters of Massachusetts. Most recently, researchers have been evaluating the impact of the 1990 Clean Air Amendments on surface waters. The program is unique in combining the efforts of hundreds of citizen volunteers and laboratories with University coordination to produce high quality data. The program has won many awards including the National Environmental Achievement Award, the Friends of the United Nations Environmental Program, and the Gulf Oil Conservation Award.
Another project the Center leads is the Massachusetts Stormwater Technology Evaluation Project, to manage and update web-based clearinghouse for proprietary and traditional technology to treat stormwater, adding Low Impact Development options to the database in 2007-2009.
The Watershed Community Project is a recent interest of the Center, exploring the convergence of information technology, science and community. The Center works in partnership with other University departments, government and non-government agencies to research and develop computer applications and related scientific and social networks that advance spatial literacy, formal and informal science education, and collaborative community efforts to document, interpret and preserve natural and cultural resources.
The Center has developed several key guidance documents for state management of water resources. These include a Guidebook to Quality Assurance Project Plans for state and federally funded projects, and a major revision to the Generic Environmental Impact Review governing all lake management activities in the state. The latter document evaluates the use of lake management techniques, reviews the science, and simplifies the process of local and state review of applications for lake management.