New NSF center tackles urban water infrastructure

July 25, 2011
By: Sarah Yang, Media Relations

The National Science Foundation has announced a five-year, $18.5 million grant to fund a new Engineering Research Center (ERC) to re-invent the country’s urban water infrastructure, which is seeing increasing challenges from age, population growth and the effects of climate change.

The new center, called the NSF ERC for Re-inventing America’s Urban Water Infrastructure, will be led by Stanford University in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, Colorado School of Mines and New Mexico State University.


Water Droplet.
NSF is funding a new center to tackle looming challenges to urban water systems.

“During the 20th century, we built an elaborate system to provide cities with water. We now face a period where the effects of urban growth, climate change and economic stress are making these systems obsolete,” said center deputy director David Sedlak, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering. “The NSF research center will pioneer new ways of providing water that make sense for the 21st century and beyond.”

NSF Engineering Research Centers, based at universities, bring together academic and industry partners in interdisciplinary collaborations to tackle complex, long-range engineering challenges.

The urban water center includes 22 industry partners and researchers in a range of fields, including environmental engineering, earth sciences, hydrology, ecology, urban studies, economics and law. They will consult with officials from municipal water districts to design water infrastructure systems that will incorporate innovations that emerge from the center.

“Working with partners in industry will transform the center’s groundbreaking research into practical and sustainable solutions,” said center director Richard Luthy, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, in a university statement. “Achieving technical innovation and new ways of doing business requires the ERC team to tackle the full range of economic, policy and social factors at play in water resources decision-making and management.”

A large part of the center’s goal is to educate future engineers and leaders who will be well-equipped to handle the future challenges of providing the country with a safe, sustainable water supply.

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