Clemson named as Center of Excellence for Watershed Management by EPA
July 8, 2008
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Office, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Clemson University Restoration Institute officials gathered at the Madren Center to officially sign a memorandum of understanding that designates Clemson as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. Clemson’s Center of Excellence will be the first in the nation to focus on digital monitoring of water systems throughout the state. The Center will integrate data from a wide array of sources into a single repository system for information exchange and local decision making.
Clemson President James Barker welcomed the EPA and DHEC to Clemson and thanked them for their partnership. “There is nothing more important I can think of than water,” said President Barker, noting that Lake Hartwell is a visible reminder of the major challenge the state faces in protecting its resources. He underscored the importance of bringing together academia, government and communities to foster joint solutions that are essential to tackling the drought conditions affecting the region.
Jim Giattina, Director of EPA Region 4 Office, noted “the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our watersheds is critical to our future.” He thanked Clemson for its leadership in providing valuable science and technology in order to help others make informed decisions about the best uses of natural resources. He advised that restoration of local watersheds will require reaching out to local communities and delivering information that is timely and accessible.
David Wilson, Bureau Chief for Water at DHEC conveyed the state’s support and participation in this partnership. “Regulators can’t make the necessary changes by themselves,” he said, noting that it takes community, academia and many others to find effective solutions to the water crisis.
“The center can be an important resource for local governments, industries and community groups who recognize the need for a comprehensive approach to water management,” said John Kelly, vice president of Clemson Public Service Activities that awarded the center $1.5 million in grant funds.
Gene Eidson, director of Clemson’s Center for Watershed Excellence, announced that this will be the first “metadata system” of its kind. He encouraged guests to imagine an intelligent river that uses every drop of water effectively. Scientists will be able to examine the soilmoisture and water flows that occur by accessing information through a real-time data acquisition and monitoring system portal.
Student involvement will also be an integral part of the Center’s research activities. “We use these programs as teaching tools,” said Eidson.
EPA Designation Criteria
Prior to being designated as a Center of Excellence, Clemson demonstrated its ability to meet the following EPA criteria:
- Capacity to identify and address the needs of local watershed stakeholders
- Endorsement by university leadership
- Local community support and partnerships
- Student, faculty and staff engagement
- Financial ability to become self-sustaining
- Cross disciplinary approach
- Accountability for results
Four watershed monitoring projects are currently underway by the Center. Their locations are as follows:
- Pickens County – Lake Issaqueena in Clemson Experimental Forest
- Greenville County – Saluda River
- Aiken County – Savannah River
- Georgetown County – Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forest Science
In addition to the digital watershed program, the Center is working with the City of Aiken and the Hitchcock Woods Foundation to develop an Ecological Restoration Master Plan for Sand River. The plan will describe current conditions and prioritize restoration and remediation projects for the area.
Another project is the Pickens County Strategic Water Supply Plan. This effort brings together all water-supply groups in Pickens County to formulate a 20-year plan to address population growth and water needs.
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Photos taken by Craig Mahaffey, Publications and Promotion, Clemson University