WRI conducts and supports original research on topics of emerging and critical interest to New York State. Our current programming can be grouped into six cross-cutting themes.
Infrastructure to collect, treat and distribute drinking water, wastewater and stormwater is critical to maintaining public health, economic vitality, and healthy well-being. Despite the availability of adequate water and the associated infrastructure, states like New York face numerous challenges, which are symptomatic of broader challenges faced nationally. Funding for water-related projects has declined, while the needs have gone up. Newer regulations, extreme weather events, and changing demography will continue to shape the management, planning, and policy related to sustainable water infrastructure.
NYSWRI supports research and outreach collaboration across varied watershed management and policy objectives. A unifying theme of WRI’s collaboration is to increase long-term watershed resilience to extreme weather events and climate change. Ecosystems are dynamic systems and the water cycle is a major driver of change in ecosystem state. The water cycle controls seasonal dynamics such as the rate of vegetation growth, as well as extreme events such as flooding or landslides. Perturbation or disturbance events are normal occurrences in all ecosystems. Managing watersheds to increase system resiliency requires implementing techniques that make a watershed less susceptible to disturbance events or that promotes quick system recovery following a disturbance.
Surface water quality for both drinking and recreation can be highly impacted by a suite of contaminants that render the water unsuitable for consumption or use. A recent major problem in NYS water bodies is the presence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), where a certain set of conditions (both natural and anthropogenic) trigger their formation and proliferation. Other water quality issues arise from the direct release of contaminants into ground and surface waters at or below the microgram per liter level, thus earning them the label of “micropollutants”. Micropollutants span a wide array of chemical and biological contaminants. The overarching goal of WRI under this theme is to continue to be involved in conducting and funding research into the source, transport, and fate of contaminants in NYS waterways and systems.
Water resources depend on multiple interacting climate factors, including air temperature and the timing and quantity of snow, rainfall, and evaporation. As climate change progresses, warmer and more variable climate will make many communities more susceptible to flooding, drought, and heat. NYSWRI has funded and engaged in a number of projects addressing issues related to climate change science, adaption, and mitigation.