Engineering Research Center on Urban Water


Civil and Geological Engineering Department,
College of Engineering

Engineering Research Center on Urban Water

(September 2, 2011)  The National Science Foundation has selected a multi-university team from Stanford University, New Mexico State University, Colorado School of Mines and University of California, Berkeley to implement a multi-year Engineering Research Center, with the goal of reinventing America’s aging and inadequate water infrastructure.  NSF will invest $18.5 million in the center over five years, with additional funds to follow based on in-progress reviews.  Engineering Research Centers are interdisciplinary hubs established at U.S. universities wherein researchers work in close partnership with industries to pursue strategic advances in complex engineered systems and technologies. 

The Urban Water ERC, led by Stanford, includes researchers trained in the fields of environmental engineering, earth sciences, hydrology, ecology, urban studies, economics and law.  The Urban Water ERC’s research will follow a three-pronged approach that combines fundamental investigations and applied research in engineered systems, natural systems and urban water management.  “Urban water represents a monumental challenge for the United States and it deserves concerted research and thinking on the grandest scale,” said project leader Richard Luthy, professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford.  “We’re clearing the slate.  Nothing is being taken for granted . We’ll be developing new strategies for replacing crumbling infrastructure, new technologies for water management and treatment, new ways to recover energy and water and more – much of it yet to be determined.“  These four universities form a powerful collaboration,” he added. “Each has its particular strengths and each is working on problems related to how we use and reuse water, and how we design and manage our urban water resources in the face of some daunting outlooks.”

Civil engineering professor Nirmala Khandan is co-investigator on the project and leader of the center’s work at New Mexico State University.  “At this level of collaboration, we can achieve much more than any one individual campus could alone,” he said.  Khandan’s primary role, in addition to serving as co-principal investigator, is to act as the education director for the center, specifically for undergraduate education.  He also will collaborate with other NMSU researchers.  Shuguang Deng, professor of chemical engineering, will lead a research project using algae for wastewater treatment and energy production.  Fellow civil engineering professor Salim Bawazir will lead a project on riparian zone management.  Another civil engineering professor, Phil King, will lead a project on the management of urban drainage systems.  Bernhard Leinauer, Extension specialist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, will work with researchers at the Colorado School of Mines on beneficial landscape use of brine.

For more information, visit the Engineering Research Center on Reinventing Urban Water Infrastructure website at

Article by Linda Fresques; photo by Hamid Mansouri-Rad.  See more at

Project funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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