Water is one of West Virginia’s most important natural resources. However, human population pressures on water resources have reached unprecedented levels in West Virginia and beyond, affecting water quality, flood hazards, agricultural production and the demand for food and energy production.
In the Appalachian region, human development activities such as forest management, agriculture, mining, industrial development, urbanization, and variability of weather and climate are degrading the state’s surface and ground water resources.
Cutting-edge research efforts and coordinated leadership among various fields – ranging from economics to human health – is necessary to advance water quality enhancement and protection both regionally and globally.
West Virginia University’s Institute of Water Security and Science is leading collaborative efforts to develop sustainable solutions that address contemporary water quality, quantity, management and use problems.
At its spring conference, the institute welcomed nearly 150 state and federal researchers to share and discuss ongoing water research that advances watershed management as well as detection and management of the effects of contaminants that result from human impacts and climate change.
“The Institute of Water Security and Science is proud to lead the state and Appalachian region in understanding and protecting this valuable resource through an integrated program of research, education, and outreach,” said Jason Hubbart, director of the institute. “Our goal at this conference was to share recent and pending advancements that will lend toward responsible stewardship of this precious resource thereby benefiting our citizens for generations to come.”
Approximately two dozen researchers presented their latest findings at the conference and discussed collaborations taking shape in West Virginia. Many speakers were members of the Appalachian Freshwater Initiative, a research team of biologists, ecologists, chemists, environmental engineers and scientists from WVU, Marshall University and West Virginia State University.
Hubbart, who is also a professor of hydrology and water quality and serves as associate dean of research in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, updated attendees on the institute’s new West Run Watershed collaborative program.
Through the West Run Watershed program, the institute provides a unique field infrastructure for teaching and research on a contemporary mixed-land-use Appalachian watershed environment. The study assesses the role of forest management, agriculture, mining, industry, urbanization and other land use practices, climate change and variability, and long-range pollutant transport in surface and ground water resources.
“The program’s approach and outcomes can be scaled and applied to any watershed in West Virginia, and provides state-of-the-art infrastructure for collaborative experimental research,” Hubbart said. “Through the collection of high-quality, long-term climatic, biogeochemical, hydrological and environmental data, the program is supporting the development of models and guidelines for research, policy and management, as well as human health and prosperity in West Virginia and elsewhere.”
Throughout the conference, researchers underscored the cultural, economic and environmental importance of water resources in Appalachia and beyond, stressing how collaboration can lead to a better understanding of how to advance management and mitigation practices that can improve the quality of life and health for millions of people.