SEPTEMBER 18, 2008

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OSU Leads the Way in State and National Water Planning

Photo of OSU's Dr. Will Focht.
Dr. Will Focht, director of the Environmental Institute at Oklahoma State University, has been named the new president-elect of the National Institutes for Water Resources.

Dr. Will Focht, director of the Environmental Institute at Oklahoma State University, has been named president-elect of the National Institutes for Water Resources, an organization representing the 54 state and territorial water research institutes that are housed at land-grant universities throughout the U.S. As president-elect and later as president of NIWR, Focht will represent the nation’s institutes before Congress.

“Dr. Focht’s election to this distinguished position is a testament to his successful work with the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute,” said Stephen McKeever, OSU vice president for research and technology transfer. “His election truly puts OSU on the national stage as a leader in water research and planning.”

In his six years as director, Focht has worked to enhance OWRRI’s standing among the other institutes throughout the nation. He has assembled an external research advisory board that reviews, selects and evaluates proposals submitted to OWRRI for funding. He has also implemented a new collaborative research effort that helps shape the state’s water plan. The key to this research effort is public participation.

“The goal is to start dialogue that produces recommendations for how water issues should be addressed,” Focht said. “It involves discussions with a variety of stakeholders including federal, state and local agencies; landowners; environmentalists; industries; and researchers. The purpose is to produce a water plan that is not only technically sound but is also supported by the state’s citizens and stakeholders.”

OWRRI is one year into the four-year process of holding local/regional input meetings, planning workshops and town hall meetings – events aimed at generating ideas and feedback on water management strategies for Oklahoma. Although OWRRI does not actually write the water plan, information from its research will be provided to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for the state’s new plan, which goes into effect July 1, 2011. Focht believes this process serves as a model for other states and the nation about the importance of involving stakeholders in the discussion about water planning.

“Water flows in and out of states, which makes water planning both a state and national issue,” Focht said. “As the gap between water supply and demand continues to widen, it is essential that we think continually about planning. We should consistently re-visit concerns about infrastructure, water quality and water quantity to ensure that we are effectively managing our resources.”

Focht steps into his new position on Oct. 1. NIWR will hold its annual meeting and meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., in February.