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Jordan Lake at sunset


WRRI funds critical water research, trains the next generation of water scientists, and disseminates sound science, educational programs, and training opportunities that support the sustainable use and conservation of water resources.

WRRI is a multi-campus program of The University of North Carolina System, serving public and private universities across the state, including minority-serving institutions. NC WRRI is supported through a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and is one of 54 institutes of the National Institutes for Water Resources, that were authorized by the Water Resources Research Act in 1964 to administer and promote federal and state partnerships in research and information transfer on water relates issues.

We Invest in the UNC System

WRRI provides resources across the UNC system, supporting junior faculty and undergraduate and graduate students in particular. Over the last five years, WRRI has supported researchers at 11 North Carolina institutions with investments totaling over $5 million.

We Sponsor Research

Through a combination of federal, state and local water utility funds, WRRI provides grants for water research to academic researchers at North Carolina’s colleges and universities and, through utility-based partnerships, to consultants and practitioners. We encourage researchers to consult and collaborate with the end-users of their research to maximize relevance and application of the results. We seek input from our advisory committee and other stakeholders to help us guide research efforts towards the highest priority water resource issues. We aim to support the highest quality investigators and projects, and strive to support junior faculty when possible. We have a strong history of student support through our research program, including a new student proposal funding program. We have a rigorous, transparent peer review process for our proposals, and ensure that all research results are publicly available when projects conclude.

We Facilitate Exchanges

WRRI is an interface for academics, practitioners (such as government staff, private consultants and contractors), and the public to learn from each other and to help guide water-related research and management efforts to ensure they reflect the state’s priority needs. Our connections and our many platforms for exchange – such as our annual conference, communication tools, publications and training workshops – help ensure that research results are transferred to the people who can best use them. With trained facilitators on staff, we offer assistance to various stakeholder groups, including assisting with strategic and organizational planning, providing expertise on state boards and committees, gathering and synthesizing input from diverse stakeholders, and engaging people in participatory exercises that enhance dialogue and problem solving around water resources.

We Train NC’s Water Professionals

In the last 30 years, we’ve trained nearly 11,000 erosion and sediment control professionals through in-person and online workshops, working both with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and independently.

We Educate Decision Makers

Local governments, state agencies, water utilities, private consultants, researchers, nonprofits, professional associations – all of these groups make decisions and take actions in their daily professional lives that affect water resources in our state. WRRI offers training workshops, forums, seminars and other educational events – including our diverse, multidisciplinary annual conference – to help inform these target audiences on the latest in water research, management practices and regulations in order to promote informed, science-based decision making.

Strategic Plan

Learn about WRRI’s Strategic Goals and Plans for Implementation to address our state’s priority water resource issues.


A Water Resource Research Institute is located in each State, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While national guidance is provided by NIWR, WRRI receives its federally appropriated funding through the U.S. Geological Survey’s State Water Research Institute Program.  State funding is provided by the General Assembly via NC State University. The Institute also arranges research partnerships and competes for federal, state and foundation grants and contracts.

University of North Carolina: A System of Learning
The National Institutes for Water Resources

Return on Investment

Through fostering partnerships and providing coordination between academia, industry, the public sector and the community, WRRI offers high returns on public investment. 

  • For every $1 in federal funding received by WRRI, we are able to leverage an additional $8 in funding.
  • We provide resources across the UNC System, supporting junior faculty and graduate students in particular. Over the last 20 years, WRRI has supported 9 UNC System institutions with investments totaling over $13.4 million.
  • To match drinking water, sewer and stormwater utility needs with university expertise, WRRI manages the Urban Water Consortium and the Stormwater Consortium. Since 1985, these dues-paying utilities have provided over $3.5 million to support needs-based research.
  • We optimize program efficiencies through strategic partnerships resulting in annual recurring savings of over $100,000 to the State of North Carolina.

Prioritizing Education

From K-12 students to university researchers to career professionals, WRRI supports and enables the education and training of thousands of North Carolinians every year.

  • WRRI education products and services reach nearly 6,000 individuals each year in universities, local governments and private businesses across the state.
  • In the last 30 years, we’ve trained nearly 11,000 erosion and sediment control professionals through in-person and online workshops.
  • We provide technical and professional support to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources as required by the N.C. Sedimentation Pollution Control Act. As such, WRRI has helped train over 10,000 erosion and sediment control professionals in 25 years.
  • WRRI has supported 26 graduate student researchers with grants for their work over the last five years, and has indirectly supported dozens more through support to faculty-led research projects.
  • Recently, WRRI’s program, the Watershed Stewardship Network, partnered with PBS-NC on the award-winning Watershed Wisdom online lesson plan for classroom and at-home learning, which attracted nearly 10,000 website visitors in 2021.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Accessibility

WRRI’s relevance increasingly will rely on how well we embody diversity, equity and inclusion. We are taking intentional measures in the hopes of fully realizing diversity, equity, justice and accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of our programmatic portfolio.