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WSU Research Water

Supplying food, energy, and water for future generations

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Helping the Columbia Basin withstand climate change

In Washington’s Columbia River basin, climate change has diminished snow storage, a significant source of summer water for the region. At the same time, population growth is escalating demand for water.

The basin is home to farms and ranches that feed the state. Hydropower generates more than half of the Pacific Northwest’s electricity, most coming from the Columbia River.1 Resources must be deftly managed to develop the region’s resilience to climate change.

Population growth and climate change strain interdependent food, energy and water systems. WSU researchers have long studied each of these systems alone. A recent $3 million grant from the National … » More …

Managing reservoirs for the health of the environment

A landscape photo of ross lake

Water bodies produce more methane than landfills

Reservoirs dot the Pacific Northwest, providing water for irrigation, fish conservation, hydropower and recreation. Yet these freshwater bodies also contribute to climate change by releasing methane—a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide—into the air.

The use of fertilizers, fossil fuels and other practices common to industrial civilizations increases the discharge of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into lakes, streams and coastal areas, causing algae growth, depleting oxygen and posing a hazard to human health. By slowing the flow of water through watersheds, thereby providing favorable conditions for algal growth and sediment trapping, reservoirs can greatly alter … » More …

Conserving water, improving Washington’s white wine

WSU researchers inform irrigation strategies

Washington is a leading producer of Riesling and Chardonnay wine grapes. In fact, these two grapes account for 75 percent of the white wine grape production in the state.

In arid eastern Washington, where most of the state’s wine grapes are grown, efficient irrigation is the name of the game. But it can be particularly challenging for white wine grapes. If a grower anticipates a heat wave, he or she can have a hard time figuring out how much to irrigate. Overwatering could result in too much canopy growth at the expense of berry production, and not enough water could … » More …

Planning to meet tomorrow’s needs for water

Research supports management of water supplies statewide

In 15 years, where will additional water supply be most critically needed in the state of Washington?

The State of Washington Water Research Center, led by WSU economics professor Jonathon Yoder, sought to find out. It forecast water supply and demand in the 258,000 square-mile Columbia River Basin, anticipating changes triggered by future environmental and economic conditions. It also conducted a cost-benefit analysis of an integrated water resource management plan for the Yakima River Basin, home to a growing population and a $3 billion agricultural industry.

Its findings help focus the state’s conservation and management projects. Ultimately, … » More …

Removing pollutants from urban runoff

Researchers seek ways to trap toxins and improve water quality

Paved surfaces cover tens of thousands of square miles in the United States. Almost all are impervious, collecting pesticides, fertilizers, oil, metals and other pollutants. The resulting runoff is one of the biggest threats to water quality.

On the west side of Washington State, abundant rain and a surging urban population create an ideal observatory for the problem. Working south of Seattle at Washington State University’s Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, researchers at the Washington Stormwater Center are working to address water-quality issues and develop effective, evidence-based management practices and principles.

Permeable … » More …

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