50th Anniversary of Water Resources Research Act and Establishment of the VA Water Center


50 years old today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Water Resources Research Act, which established a Water Resources Research Institute in each state.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which is my home appointment at Virginia Tech, is Virginia’s mandated WRRI.  Let’s hope the WRRA and the institutes continue to “enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit” for another 50 years!  The WRRI’s are responsible for training future water scientists and engineers, and transferring the results of sponsored research to water managers and the public.

For more information, see the USGS news release on this anniversary.

Posted in News, Policy Tagged with: ,

Keep your hat on. We may end up miles from here.



Until fairly recently, it seemed like this was impossibly far away.

I cleaned my desk, have check marks on all the right forms, and my things are all in boxes. It is time to move on! I am VERY excited to say that I will be starting a position as assistant professor in the Geosciences and Natural Resources department at Western Carolina University. It will be an exciting opportunity to work on getting undergraduate students excited about science while continuing to work on questions that excite me at the school’s research watershed.

A very very heartfelt thank you to the VT watershed hydrology group. I honestly can’t think of one thing I would change about my graduate school experience in this group. The support, friendship, and talent is second to none. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose this group again in a heartbeat. I could go on and on, but I’ll keep it short. THANK YOU.

With that, I have some time to kill before August. Time to go on a bike ride.

Check out the WCU logo… maroon and orange is great, but that purple!!


Posted in Lab news

Congratulations Kris!

Kris Brown successfully defended his dissertation yesterday. Congratulations to Kris.

The title of his dissertation was “Sediment delivery from reopened forest roads at stream crossings in the Virginia Piedmont physiographic region, USA”


Posted in Lab news

Forest road gravel cover and reduced sediment delivery to stream crossings paper accepted

HPcoverKris Brown’s paper on “the effect of increasing gravel cover on forest roads for reduced sediment delivery to stream crossings” was accepted this week in Hydrological Processes.

Direct sediment inputs from forest roads at stream crossings are a major concern for water quality and aquatic habitat. Legacy road-stream crossing approaches, or the section of road leading to the stream, may have poor water and grade control upon reopening, thus increasing the potential for negative impacts to water quality. Rainfall simulation experiments were conducted on the entire running surface area associated with six reopened stream crossing approaches in the southwestern Virginia Piedmont physiographic region, USA. Event-based surface runoff and associated total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations were compared among a succession of gravel surfacing treatments that represented increasing intensities of best management practice (BMP) implementation. The three treatments were No Gravel (10-19% cover), Low Gravel (34-60% cover), and High Gravel (50-99% cover). Increased field hydraulic conductivity was associated with… read more…

Posted in Lab news, Research paper Tagged with: , ,

Graduate Research Assistantship in Reforestation and Water Quality

We’re looking for another graduate student for a two-year MS-level graduate research assistantship with an expected start date of fall of 2014.  The student would work with Dr. McGuire and Dr. Brian Strahm.

This interdisciplinary research project is focused on understanding the role of reforestation on the quantity and quality of water emanating from drastically disturbed landscapes.  Specifically, the project will combine field and laboratory experiments to quantify the effect that mined land reforestation has on the delivery of total dissolved solid (TDS) loads to surface waters.

Research assistantships include a full tuition waiver, benefits, and a competitive annual stipend that includes summer support (~$21,000).  For more information on the graduate program in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech, please visit: www.frec.vt.edu.

Posted in Assistantships Tagged with: , , ,

Congratulations JP!

John (JP) Gannon successfully defended his dissertation on Monday. A big congrats to JP!

Posted in Lab news

University of Montana’s news release on our paper…

New Research Focuses on Streamwater Chemistry, Landscape Variation

MISSOULA (Apr. 22, 2014) – Winsor Lowe, interim director of the University of Montana’s Wildlife Biology Program, co-wrote a research paper published April 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on how streamwater chemistry varies across a headwater stream network.

Lowe and co-authors from Virginia Tech, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the University of Connecticut and the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station examined 664 water samples collected every 10 meters along 32 tributaries of a stream network in the Hubbard Brook Valley of New Hampshire.

Lowe says this would be like looking at any of the Bitterroot Valley creeks by starting at its headwaters high in the mountains and sampling all the small streams that feed into the system as the stream makes its way down to the Bitterroot River.

Headwater streams perform critical functions for downstream ecosystems, but the complexity of their streamwater chemistry is not well understood. Lowe and his co-authors’ findings suggest that in headwater stream networks many factors influence the streamwater chemistry in different locations along the stream’s course, and in complex relationships with the surrounding landscape. Read more …

Posted in Lab news, News, Popular news Tagged with: , , ,

News release – Ecology team improves understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 22, 2014 – A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components.

“Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Assistant Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “However, the actual patterns and causes of variation of water quality in headwater streams are often unknown.”  Read more…

Posted in Lab news, News, Popular news Tagged with: , , , , ,

Water’s 3 Biggest Threats (and Opportunities)

A VT Water Seminar…

Water’s 3 Biggest Threats (and Opportunities)

by Ben Grumbles, U.S. Water Alliance

Tuesday, April 29, 2014   (2:00-3:00 p.m.); Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) Auditorium at Virginia Tech

Ben Grumbles is President of the U.S. Water Alliance–a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to uniting people and policy for “one water” sustainability. Possessing one of the broadest and most diverse memberships in the country, the Alliance has public and private sector leaders focusing on quality and quantity water issues both above and below the surface. The Alliance also focuses on the connections of energy, land, food and transportation as they relate to water, and the need for an integrated “one water” management philosophy. Mr. Grumbles has served as Director of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality, Assistant Administrator for Water at U.S. EPA, and in the U.S. House of Representatives on both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Science Committee. Ben has a Master’s Degree in environmental law from George Washington University, a J.D. from Emory University Law School, and a B.A. from Wake Forest University.

Abstract: Everyone wants clean, safe, abundant, and affordable water but it’s not so easy. Aging systems, increasing development pressures, changing climates, and challenging public attitudes make the balancing act more difficult and complex. Here are three of the most basic threats and sustainable solutions.

Threat #1: Water is forgotten and taken for granted. The infrastructure systems are invisible, unappreciated, and underfunded.  Solution: Local and national campaigns are needed to change the way America views, values, and manages water.  True value and full cost pricing with smart metering and social safety nets will help.

Threat # 2: Water policies are fractured and fragmented. All water is local and beyond. 20 federal agencies and countless federal laws and policies get into the mix, along with wildly diverse state and local laws and policies. Agencies and citizen boards segment the water cycle into separate components and turf battles. Quantity and quality, surface and groundwater, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act programs are rarely coordinated and almost never integrated. Decisions on energy development, from fracking to biofuels, agricultural production, housing and transportation often fail to include water impacts and needs. Solution: More holistic, “One Water” management, at the local, regional, and national levels will result in smarter decisions for the future of water. New paradigms on water efficiency and reuse, onsite and neighborhood-wide in urban and rural settings, and watershed restoration and governance are needed.

Threat #3: Water innovators are fearful and frozen in place. Risk-averse policies and policymakers often block the development and use of improved technologies, management tools, and financial strategies due to lack of information and legal or political constraints.  Solution:  Coordinated strategies and university-driven technology clusters are needed to facilitate the approval and use of new tools.  The vision for a “blue innovation nation” includes strategies to shift our culture from gray infrastructure to green, treat and discharge plants to resource recovery centers, end-of-pipe permitting to market-based trading, and public-only funding to public-private partnerships that maintain the public’s trust.

Sponsored by: Virginia Water Resources Research Center and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS).

Posted in Seminars Tagged with: ,

Network chemistry patterns in headwater streams – new paper published in PNAS

In a new article published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we show how high-resolution mapping and analysis of water chemistry throughout a headwater stream network reveals unexpected patterns in how flowing water interacts with the surrounding landscape at multiple spatial scales.  Here’s the abstract and a link to the paper:

By coupling synoptic data from a basin-wide assessment of streamwater chemistry with network-based geostatistical analysis, we show that spatial processes differentially affect biogeochemical condition and pattern across a headwater stream network.  We analyzed a high-resolution dataset consisting of 664 water samples collected every 100 m throughout 32 tributaries in an entire fifth-order stream network.  These samples were analyzed for an exhaustive suite of chemical constituents.  The fine grain and broad extent of this study design allowed us to quantify spatial patterns over a range of scales using empirical semivariograms that explicitly incorporated network topology.  Here, we show that spatial structure, as determined by the characteristic shape of the semivariograms, differed both among chemical constituents and by spatial relationship (flow-connected, flow-unconnected, or Euclidean).  Spatial structure was apparent at either a single scale or at multiple nested scales, suggesting separate processes operating simultaneously within the stream network and surrounding terrestrial landscape.  Expected patterns of spatial dependence for flow-connected relationships (e.g., increasing homogeneity with downstream distance) occurred for some chemical constituents (e.g., dissolved organic carbon, sulfate, and aluminum) but not for others (e.g., nitrate, sodium).  By comparing semivariograms for the different chemical constituents and spatial relationships, we were able to separate effects on streamwater chemistry of (i) fine- versus broad-scale processes and (ii) in-stream processes versus landscape controls.  These findings provide insight on the hierarchical scaling of local, longitudinal, and landscape processes that drive biogeochemical patterns in stream networks.

McGuire KJ, Torgersen CE, Likens GE, Buso DC, Lowe WH, Bailey SW. 2014. Network analysis reveals multiscale controls on streamwater chemistry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404820111

More information on the study can be found here.

Posted in Lab news, Research paper Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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