San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 23rd, 2009
RSI launches water consortium

STAFF REPORT

The Rivers Systems Institute (RSI) at Texas State is teaming up with universities and the federal government to form the Consortium for Watershed Excellence, with an eye towards developing long-term strategies to protect water resources.

A 10:30 a.m. reception Tuesday at Texas Rivers Center will introduce the consortium. All Texas State faculty, staff and students working, studying or researching in the area of water or the environment are invited to attend.

The consortium will initially consist of the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute at Oklahoma State University, the Arkansas Water Resources Center at the University of Arkansas, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regional universities yet to come. The consortium’s mission includes watershed assessment, education and outreach, facilitation and planning, water quality monitoring, and technology development and deployment.

An EPA grant of $72,599 is the first step in a consortium initiative to study pathogens in the Red River Basin – an area chosen because it reaches across each of the five states in EPA region 6 (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana).

“We will study pathogen pollution, which comes from human and animal sources, and potentially threatens the health of people when they swim and recreate in creeks and streams,” said Eric Mendelman, coordinator of the Initiative for Watershed Excellence. “We’re focusing on pathogens first because people can more easily relate to immediate health risks. What we want to ensure with our project, is that we assess and communicate the risks using science and education.”

A Transboundary Work Group that includes water agencies, scientists and researchers will help evaluate pathogen data and help design pathogen education programs for the public.

“The first thing you have to do before you can get people involved is for everyone to be on the same page and speaking the same language,” Mendelman said. “The next steps will be to find ways of dealing with causes and possible solutions for problems, communicate with community leaders, decision makers and citizens through local workshops, and develop a plan to implement solutions.”

Consortium partners will work in close collaboration to take this approach to other areas in EPA region 6 where pathogens or other pollutants are causing problems for water resources as well as potential health and economic risks.

“Together they will work to restore and protect impaired or at-risk waters while developing the next generation of water resource professionals,” Mendelman said.

For more information, contact the Rivers Systems Institute at (512) 245-5570.

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