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November 17, 2014

Researcher receives $4.1 million grant for drinking water safety

  • Amherst
Funds will help emerging water innovation sector.

AMHERST, Mass. – Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have announced that David A. Reckhow, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his colleagues have received a $4.1 million grant to create a national center for research aimed at assisting small-sized drinking water systems. Gov. Deval L. Patrick and a top state environmental official were also on hand to announce $1.5 million in funding to establish the Commonwealth as a hub for the emerging water innovation sector.

Legislation signed by Gov. Patrick in August calls for $1.5 million in investments from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for water innovation to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).

David A. Reckhow
David A. Reckhow

The announcement of the federal funding was made by Ramona Travato, associate assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development in Washington, D.C., and Kurt Spalding, EPA’s New England administrator. Other officials at the event were Kumble R. Subbaswamy; UMass Amherst chancellor, Maeve Vallely Bartlett, state secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Henry Thomas III, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees.

Under the new EPA grant, the UMass Amherst Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems (WINSSS) will develop and test advanced, low cost methods to reduce, control and eliminate groups of water contaminants that present challenges to communities across the U.S. and worldwide.

“We are proud to partner with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and small systems across New England to ensure that people have safe, clean drinking water,” Trovato, says. “This helps improve the health, economy and security of our communities.”

UMass Amherst Chancellor Subbaswamy says, “Providing safe, clean drinking water is critical for maintaining the health and security of the Commonwealth. Researchers here at UMass Amherst are on the front lines of efforts to make sure that clean water is a reality for all our communities and citizens. This new funding will help the Commonwealth’s flagship campus make an important contribution to this key public need.”

Spalding says, “Innovation and technology development are vital for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our water systems. EPA is thrilled to see UMass Amherst create the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems to spur innovation and technology to continue providing safe drinking water.”

The combined state and federal funding is also critical for success. “By working together across the federal and state levels, we can help solve the world’s water challenges, while capturing the environmental and economic benefits of this growing sector,” said Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett.         

Reckhow explained how this latest round of funding allows him and his team to augment their ongoing research. “The new EPA drinking water center and the state funding are both intended to address critical U.S. and regional needs for clean water,” Reckhow says. “The EPA center will allow researchers at UMass Amherst to test out new and more economical ways of removing contaminants in drinking water, many of which will help to reduce our dependence on using chlorine for disinfection.”

Locally, Reckhow and his research team currently work with officials in Palmer, Hadley, Stockbridge, Deerfield, Amherst and Northampton on improving local water systems.         

In September the EPA announced more than $8 million in grants to create two national centers for research and innovation in small to medium sized drinking water systems, one at UMass Amherst and the other at University of Colorado Boulder’s Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge (DeRISK) Center.

These grants, part of EPA’s research on safe and sustainable drinking water, support the development of water clusters – networks of businesses, researchers and others involved in water technology. Colorado and Massachusetts are both home to water cluster organizations. These organizations are leading the way in developing cutting-edge technologies and bringing them to the market, where they can solve water challenges that threaten health and daily activities while promoting technological innovation and economic growth.

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