The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated North Carolina State University (NCSU) as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. NCSU is the managing entity of the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) for the entire University of North Carolina system. This is the first Center of Excellence to be designated in North Carolina and the sixth in the Southeast. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Regional Administrator Stanley Meiburg, NCSU Associate Vice Chancellor Matt Ronning, WRRI director Michael Voiland, and North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) Secretary Dee Freeman signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help communities identify watershed based problems and develop and implement locally sustainable solutions.
“Everyone lives in a watershed”, said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. “We believe a watershed approach is the most effective framework to address today’s water resource challenges. This designation will allow NCSU to continue developing the strong partnerships with other institutions, organization and agencies required to protect and restore watersheds.”
To become a recognized Center of Excellence, the institution must demonstrate technical expertise in identifying and addressing watershed needs; involve students, staff and faculty in watershed research; demonstrate the capability to involve the full suite of disciplines needed for all aspects of watershed management; financial ability to become self-sustaining; ability to deliver and account for results; willingness to partner with other institutions; and support from the highest levels of the organization.
Some of the benefits of being recognized as a Center of Excellence include receipt of EPA technical assistance where needed (instructors, speakers, etc); promotion of the Center of Excellence to stakeholders; EPA letters of support for grant opportunities; and identification of opportunities for Center of Excellence involvement in local and regional watershed issues.
For decades, EPA and NCDENR have protected North Carolina’s lakes, rivers and wetlands by regulating specific points of pollution; the most common of these being sewage treatment plants and factories. Although this approach led to the successful cleanup of many waterways, others still remain polluted from sources not as easily regulated. These more subtle sources include farms, streets, parking lots, lawns, rooftops or any other surfaces that come in contact with rainwater. Today, EPA and NCDENR take a broader approach to water protection, looking at both the individual waterway and the watershed in which it is located.
Begun in 2007, the EPA Region 4 Centers of Excellence for Watershed Management Program works with colleges and universities from across the Southeast to provide hands-on, practical products and services for communities to identify watershed problems and solve them. Each EPA designated Center actively seeks out watershed-based stakeholder groups and local governments that need cost effective tools for watershed scientific studies, engineering designs and computer mapping, as well as assistance with legal issues, project management, public education and planning.
More information about priority watersheds in the Southeast is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/region4/water/watersheds/index.html