About Us

A USGS-funded State Water Resources Research Institute

The IWW is the state water resources research institute for Oregon and is one of 54 state- or territory-based, institutes established by the 1964 Federal Water Resources Research Act. Through this program, the IWW receives federal matching funds from the US Geological Survey to support water resources research and technology transfer activities in Oregon. In this role, the IWW carries on the water research tradition established by The Oregon Water Resources Research Institute (OWRRI) which operated from 1960-2000 and the Center for Water and Environmental Sustainability (CWESt) which operated from 2000-2005. The IWW is a member of the National Institutes for Water Resources.

A Hub for Water Research

At Oregon State University, over 125 faculty teach and conduct research in areas related to fresh water supply and quality. These faculty members are spread among six colleges and represents many different academic disciplines – including engineering, ecology, geosciences, social sciences, economics and arts. OSU also hosts a vibrant Water Resource Graduate Program where students can earn specialized degrees in water resources engineering, science, and policy and management.

The IWW is the hub for this diverse water research community. It seeks to solve complex water issues by facilitating integrative water research. The IWW’s functions are to:

  • Assemble diverse research teams and lead interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary water research projects.

  • Help policy makers and water managers collaborate with university faculty and students.

  • Offer training and access to water quality and stable isotope analysis facilities through a shared laboratory called the IWW Collaboratory.

  • Encourage community and collaboration among water faculty, students and water managers by sponsoring events and producing a weekly campus water newsletter.

  • Assist water faculty with project development and management.

 

Irrigation Circles near Hermiston, Oregon. Photo from USDA ARS photo library.

Why Focus on Water?

Oregon's economic vitality is directly tied to water. Water is “virtually” embedded in all Oregon products, from timber and salmon to solar panels and semiconductors. But water supply and demand in the state is changing. There is now less snowpack in mountain regions and the snow is melting earlier in the spring and summer. These changes have implications for irrigation, human consumption, hydropower generation and ecosystems. Shifting population, land use patterns and environmental policies will also influence the future supply and demand for abundant clean water.

In the academic community there is growing recognition that the solutions to future water challenges lie not within a single discipline or subject but through the connection of concepts between multiple academic fields and through successful collaboration between academics and water managers. For example, anticipating the effect of climate change on Oregon’s water resources requires not just the input of climatologists and hydrologists but also the perspective of many others from biologists and sociologists to water managers and policy experts.

Through an integrative research approach, the IWW seeks answers to questions important for Oregon, the nation and the world, such as:

  • Where are climate change and human activity most likely to create conditions of water scarcity?

  • Where is water scarcity most likely to exert the greatest impact on ecosystems and communities?

  • What strategies would allow communities to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to scarcity most successfully?