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What's on Tap

MSU water researchers protect our most valuable—and vulnerable—natural resource.

Chances are, wherever there is water there are Spartans. Researchers from dozens of disciplines across the globe study, monitor and protect our waters—from joining the front lines of the Flint water crisis response to combating the effects of climate change to ensuring access to safe, plentiful water for all.

Here's what's on tap:

Water Science Network

Launched in 2015, the MSU Water Science Network is a collaboration focused on the continued advancement of groundbreaking science to address the world's most pressing water problems. The network's Global Water Initiative brought 16 new faculty to MSU to expand research in key water-related areas.

“Our goal is to build working relationships among faculty, facilitate joint research grants and promote MSU as a center of excellence in water. By joining forces to tackle big challenges, such as access to water, we will make a greater impact.”

- Steve Pueppke, co-leader of the Water Faculty Advisory Committee and associate vice president, MSU Research and Graduate Studies

Shaking Hands

MSU’s collaborators include: U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, Nature Conservancy

Institute of Water Research

The MSU Institute of Water Research is committed to addressing the most pressing water problems and developing science-based technology, research, educational programs, and partnerships to help understand and address critical water issues. It’s one of 54 federally designated water institutes created under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964 and receives ongoing support from MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension.

A to Z

MSU water research involves multiple disciplines in 25 departments, from anthropology to zoology.

MSU researchers collaborate to address water concerns on multiple fronts, from protecting drinking water supplies to combatting invasive species that threaten the Great Lakes.

MSU physicians, scientists and engineers are partnering with Flint to monitor health and growth of children exposed to lead in drinking water and to improve water quality testing for lead, Legionella and other contaminants.

A new app called “Empower Flint” was developed by a team from MSU and WKAR, its affiliate PBS station, in collaboration with Flint residents. Its goal: provide community members with a step-by-step checklist of the most important actions they should take to protect themselves, their families and their pets in dealing with the lead water crisis.

MSU is home to some of the foremost experts working to eradicate invasive species from the Great Lakes. The MSU-developed mobile app that coordinates with the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network allows users to snap photos of destructive pests with their smart phones and send alerts to a growing network of scientists and officials who can improve the response to threats, including killer shrimp and sea lampreys.


More than 100 faculty members dedicate themselves to water-related research in 57 countries.

Spartan researchers study how to use water sources wisely, keep them free from dangerous organisms, maintain balanced ecosystems and work to ensure there will be plenty of clean, accessible water for future generations.

MSU’s Joan Rose is Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at MSU, codirector of the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment and director of the Center for Water Sciences.

Rose is the 2016 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, recently announced at the United Nation’s World Water Day celebration in Geneva. The Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious water award, and likened to the Nobel Prize of water research.

She and her team of water detectives created a map of fecal viruses traveling our global waterways using modeling methods to aid in assessing water quality worldwide. The study directly addresses the Sustainability Development Goals outlined by the United Nations and will enable researchers to design a treatment and vaccination program that can help prevent sewage-associated diseases.

Rose and her team also are looking to fill the critical need for access to clean, safe water in the most remote locations in the world with a new foam water filter that significantly reduces dangerous pathogens in drinking water.

“An entire community is affected by the quality of their water,” says Rose. “A disease outbreak among members may be traced back to the water source, so the methods these communities rely on need to be effective and sustainable.”

$186 million

$186 million+ in external grants between 2000-14

Attracting top researchers and external funding allows MSU to address challenges on a larger scale and harness the latest technology to improve lives in communities facing water challenges.

Through a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, MSU is leading a team of scientists to develop big-data approaches to better manage water and fertilizers and to adapt to changes brought on by climate variability. MSU ecosystems scientist Bruno Basso also uses unmanned drones and thermal cameras in his arsenal to help farmers to quickly pinpoint problem areas and address them in a targeted manner.

“We aim to help farmers better adapt to temperature extremes, droughts or excess water in fields so that they can make better decisions for the environment, and maximize production and/or profits.”

-Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystems scientist


No. 24 of 100 best global universities for environment and ecology (U.S. News & World Report)

MSU trains future water scientists and researchers in a range of programs and disciplines—from undergraduates to doctoral students—who already are making a difference in their field and in the lives of people around the globe.

A team of MSU undergraduates with the student group Engineers Without Borders are assisting in the design and construction of a rainwater containment system at an elementary school in Buyuni, Tanzania, to meet their water needs during the dry season. In December, four MSU students and their two professional mentors traveled to Buyuni to meet with the community and plan the construction.

Zoology doctoral student Kateri Salk is specializing in environmental science and policy. She was recently awarded the Rose Water Fellowship given to graduate-level scientists seeking to advance the field of water science. Salk plans to use the award to fund her current research project on algal blooms in Lake Erie.

“The broader goal of the fellowship, rather than just funding a specific project, helped me to really think about my vision for a career in water science,” says Salk. “I believe research will help to address future water problems both locally and around the world.”

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