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Virginia Water Research Conference addresses impacts of changing climates on water resources


BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 8, 2010 – More than 140 water scientists, managers, policy makers, and students gathered in Richmond, Va., for the 2009 Virginia Water Research Conference.

Hosted by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (Water Center) at Virginia Tech and the Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the conference addressed the environmental, political, and economic changes facing stakeholders, researchers, and managers of water resources.

The conference opened with a plenary session that included speakers Preston Bryant, Virginia secretary of natural resources, and Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for global change research at the U.S. Geological Survey. Stephen Schoenholtz, director of the Water Center, observed, “The plenary session very effectively met our goal of providing an informative, provocative overview of some of the key issues we face in Virginia in relation to climate change.”

Also included in the conference were 70 oral and poster presentations. The majority of these presentations focused on environmental challenges, including several sessions devoted to stormwater policy, management, and research. The underpinning for much of the discussion is that stormwater challenges will be exacerbated by most predicted climate-change scenarios in Virginia.

When asked about how this conference could benefit individual communities in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond, Schoenholtz replied, “My hope is that people who attended the conference will head back to their communities and their jobs with a new idea or two, and ultimately that their new ideas will translate into actions that improve the management of our water resources.”

The Water Center also uses its annual conference to reach out to undergraduate and graduate students from schools in Virginia and other states. Thirty-nine students gave oral or poster presentations, and oral presentations were judged in a “Best Student Presentation” competition.

In the undergraduate student presentation category, the winner was Andrew Snyder-Beattie (Department of Economics, Mary Washington University) for his presentation of “The Taste and Economics of Desalinated Water” (co-authored by Andrea Dietrich, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech).

In the graduate student presentation category, the winners were Michael Patrick Brandt (Center for Environmental Studies, VCU) for his presentation of “Factors Limiting Benthic Algal Abundance in Virginia Streams of the Coastal Plain” (co-authored by Paul Bukaveckas, also at VCU’s Center for Environmental Studies); and Kristin Gilroy (Department of Civil Engineering, University of Maryland) for her presentation of: “Effect of Location of Bioretention Facilities on Controlling Urban Storm Runoff Rate” (co-authored by Dr. Richard McCuen, also at Maryland’s Department of Civil Engineering).

The Water Center also supports students through the William R. Walker Graduate Fellowship award, which is presented annually at the Water Center’s conference. During this year’s conference, the Walker Award for 2009 was presented to John Petrie, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. The Walker Fellowship was established to honor the late Bill Walker, the Water Center’s founding director. The recipient is selected through a statewide competition, which is open to graduate students from all of Virginia’s colleges and universities.

Proceedings of the October conference will be available in 2010 on the Water Center’s website.