Local and regional water management leaders gathered Sept. 27 to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Nevada Water Innovation Institute (NWII), a University-led partnership that collaborates with regional agency partners on issues in the water sector.
Elected representatives attending the event include Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, Sparks council members Kristopher Dahir and Charlene Bybee, Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese and Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill. University President Brian Sandoval, College of Engineering Dean Erick Jones and other University leadership also were on hand to celebrate the anniversary.
Directed by Civil & Environmental Engineering Department Chair Krishna Pagilla, the NWII made regional and national news during the COVID-19 pandemic for its work on wastewater monitoring to determine the presence of COVID-19 in the community. Other projects include collaborations with such agencies as the cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), the Western Regional Water Commission and the Nevada Division of Transportation focused around water reclamation technologies, stormwater control technologies, research on water reuse and more.
“This institute has become a national leader and invaluable partner in water planning innovation in our region,” Dahir, a TMWA board member, said. “The Institute has worked with TMWA on several important regional projects including advanced purified water, disinfection byproducts analysis and indirect potable reuse pilot studies and related community outreach.
“These projects help improve TMWA’s drought resiliency and water resource sustainability for current and future Truckee Meadows residents,” Dahir continued.
In addition to partnering with governments on water research and product development, NWII has a goal to educate and prepare the next generation of water professionals.
“I think one of the best gifts this institute, and particularly Dr. Krishna (Pagilla), has given to our community is the opportunity for amazing, young, brilliant minds to do helpful things: to research the projects that face this community and will affect us in the future,” John Martini, Sparks assistant city manager, said. “The thing that I love that Krishna has done: these students are involved with all of us at the local level. They have boots on the ground, they come to our council meetings, some are sitting in the board of directors meetings.”
More than 50 students, researchers and staff have participated in NWII projects and activities, according to NWII information. The Institute also has garnered more than $4 million in water research and development funding from its founders, as well as more than $2 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Bureau of Reclamation and USDA.
The NWII’s work dovetails with the College of Engineering’s commitment to equitable community infrastructure.
“The Institute has made a dramatic impact on our region since its inception five years ago,” Erick Jones, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “That is a credit to Dr. Pagilla, his team and the Institute partners that have worked so diligently to manage one of our most precious resources — water. We can’t wait to see what is in store in the next five years.”