Waco, Baylor Announce Joint Water Research Venture

June 2, 2003

by Judy Long

With the under-construction Baylor Sciences Building in the background, Baylor University and the City of Waco announced today (June 2) the formation of the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research, a partnership that will address complex water issues in the southern region of the United States and other areas of the world that depend on reservoirs for water use.

City officials, including Waco Mayor Linda Ethridge and City Manager Larry Groth, joined Baylor faculty, staff and students to announce the cooperative agreement. The center, which will be housed in the sciences building when it opens for classes in fall 2004, will tap the resources of both Baylor scientists and city water managers to tackle water issues of regional and global significance.

The Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research has four major components - research, education, professional and technical services, and outreach:

• encourage and facilitate multidisciplinary research that can be used to better develop, protect and manage reservoir systems and that provides solutions to local and global problems involving water resources;

• augment existing and future water-related educational programs at Baylor in the departments of biology, geology and environment studies,

• provide professional and technical training and support services for personnel involved in reservoir management, water treatment, waste-water engineering, wetland ecology and management and water services, and

• implement outreach efforts to educate the Waco community and local school children about reservoir systems and related water issues.

Biology professor Robert Doyle will serve as director of the center. Doyle, a specialist in the ecology of rooted aquatic plants and wetlands who has conducted extensive international wetland research, said the center is the result of a vision to provide a structure for interactive research between the city and Baylor.

Doyle said the center will include researchers from the departments of biology, geology, and environmental studies, as well as city planners and managers. He said the vision is formidable and offers sizeable challenges, "but I like those challenges," he added.

The cooperative agreement between Baylor and Waco states that water will be the most significant factor determining future growth and economic prosperity in the southwestern United States and many other regions of the world. Growing population in these regions, as well as pollution from a variety of sources, threaten to reduce the availability of usable water.

"Developing new water supplies or importing water from distant sources is expensive and carries environmental risks," the agreement reads. "Furthermore, it is recognized that the planning and development of future water resources require a multidisciplinary approach. Billions of dollars of public investment and the future economic health of many regions depend on the success of this integrated approach."

Through this approach to multidisciplinary research, Baylor faculty, students and water professionals are poised to make a major contribution to the study of water resources, with significant impact on the economic prosperity and quality of life in Waco, Central Texas and other areas. Students also will benefit under the program by working side-by-side with world-class faculty and experts on "real" problems as they evolve into global leaders in research and water management.

Waco mayor Linda Ethridge welcomed the center, saying water issues have consumed her as mayor. Recognizing past city leaders for their creation of an ample water supply, the mayor hailed the center as a cooperative venture on the cutting edge of how to handle excessive nutrients in the water, an urgent local issue. Although McLennan County has ample quantities of water, Lake Waco has received excessive nutrients from the Bosque River due to dairy farm runoff from counties upstream. The center will study this and other water issues in depth and search for solutions.

Ethridge also cited the city's obligation to support rigorous scientific inquiry into water issues. The Lake Waco Wetlands project was developed to help modify nutrient pollution and to provide additional habitat to make up for pasture land which will be lost when the level of Lake Waco is raised. However, the city also has reaped other benefits, she said, mainly tourism and a valuable laboratory for city and university scientists.

Baylor University will provide approximately 2,000 square feet of multiuse laboratory space within Baylor Sciences Building. The lab will be physically located near the research laboratories of several of the water-related research faculty at Baylor.

The City of Waco will provide approximately 1500 square feet of research space within the new Lake Waco Research and Education Center under construction at the Lake Waco Wetlands. This research center is expected to be completed by early 2004.

Ethridge expressed hope that both research centers will provide Waco citizens and others with ongoing access to needed water information.

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