At Oregon State University, there are over 125 faculty in six colleges who teach and conduct research in areas related to water and watersheds and bring in over $11M/year in extramural funding. The campus also hosts strong graduate degree programs in Water Resources and is located near state-of-the-art experimental watersheds and a suite of federal environmental laboratories. Below are short descriptions of some of the university's strengths in the areas of:
- water science
- water engineering
- water policy and management
- water outreach and community education
The OSU community has one of the largest gatherings of hydrologists and ecologists in the USA. They include not only campus faculty but also courtesy faculty from the suite of federal research laboratories located adjacent to campus. This combination makes for a world-class grouping of people, mapped against one of the strongest hydrological gradients (from the super-humid Oregon Coast to arid Eastern Oregon) in the world. The campus is known for its cross-discipline collaborations -- for example faculty from the top-ranked forestry and conservation biology programs collaborating on salmon conservation studies. Many researchers take advantage of nearby field laboratories such as the NSF Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) facilities at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest and industry timberland instrumented watersheds in the Oregon Coast range (Hinkle Creek, Alsea and Trask).
Unlike other land-grant institutions, OSU's engineering connection gives it strengths in treatment technologies for surface water, groundwater, and wastewater systems. OSU Engineering now ranks in the top 50 programs in the US. Many OSU engineers specialize in biological treatment methods and OSU hosts a Subsurface Biosphere Initiative that emphasizes interdisciplinary research on soil and groundwater microbial ecology. Many engineering faculty are also connected to the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) that connects the state's businesses with its shared network of university labs to transform green building and renewable energy research. Partnering with the OSU College of Business places a “business face” on the sustainability of engineered solutions to water problems. Before graduating, many engineering students enroll in coursework leading to a business savvy Entrepreneurship Minor.
Water Policy and Management
Addressing water resource challenges and reducing conflict in the US and abroad requires that water professionals and decision-makers receive specialized resources and skills that go beyond the traditional physical systems approach to water resources management. OSU offers a post-graduate certificate as part of their Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation. The program leverages personnel from the top-10 nationally-ranked Geosciences Department, the top-five nationally ranked College of Forestry, as well as specialists in water policy, social science, communication, and anthropology. The “softer side” of OSU water has close links with UNESCO, the World Bank, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
OSU’s reputation for providing vital environmental information to students and the public is beyond reproach. A few of OSU's water-related outreach programs include:
- The Master Watershed Steward Program - An OSU Extension program offering educational sessions and materials to help watershed groups and individuals understand how their watersheds work and apply this knowledge to watershed stewardship on their own land or in their community.
- The Oregon Well Water Program - An OSU Extension program designed to help Oregonians protect the groundwater that supplies their drinking water through education.
- The Hydroville Curriculum Project - A program proving water-themed educational materials and exercises to K-12 teachers. It is operated by OSU's Environmental Health Sciences Center.
- The Oregon Explorer Progam - An online digital library that provides natural resources information to decision makers through a growing series of Web portals.