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4/11/13 - EPA designates Mississippi State 'center of excellence'

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated Mississippi State University as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management, becoming the 10th such institution in the Southeast.

Representatives from the EPA's Region 4, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the university signed a memorandum of understanding in Atlanta today [April 9] to help communities identify watershed-based problems and develop and implement locally sustainable solutions.

The new center will be housed at Mississippi State, where it will serve as a resource for universities throughout the state.

"Mississippi State University is extraordinarily pleased to partner with the EPA for this Center of Excellence," said David Shaw, MSU's vice president for research and economic development. "Research in water quality and quantity is one of the highest priority areas for our university, and the center will utilize the breath of capacity from the entire campus to address these needs."

To become a recognized Center of Excellence, an institution must demonstrate technical expertise in identifying and addressing watershed needs; involvement of students, staff and faculty in watershed planning, protection, and restoration; 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.

"A watershed approach is one of the most effective frameworks to engage communities and address today's water resource challenges," said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming. "Ultimately, this designation will help fulfill our mutual goals to protect and restore water quality and improve the quality of life in our local communities."

Some of the benefits of being a recognized 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.

"MDEQ has a history of partnering with our state's academic institutions that comprise the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute. Together we have improved our approaches to water resource sustainability and water quality protection and restoration throughout the state," said MDEQ Executive Director Trudy D. Fisher. "The focused science and applied research through the Center of Excellence for Watershed Management will further strengthen our efforts to address current challenges and needs related to water resources."

Located on the campus of Mississippi State, MWRRI administers and coordinates research programs dealing with water and related resources. It is one of the state institutes authorized by Section 104 of The Water Resources Research Act of 1984. Its activities are developed in close consultation and collaboration between the institute and leading water resources officials within the state (For more, see ).

For decades, EPA and Mississippi have protected the state'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 MDEQ take a broader approach to water protection, looking at both the individual waterway and the watershed in which it is located.

Started 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.

Jim Laird | University Relations

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