Land & Environment

Water Wise

Water is a key factor of life in the arid West and since Utah State University's beginning in 1888, water has been a key research focus. In December of 1965, when the university dedicated its new Utah Water Research Laboratory, USU took its place as one of the world's leading water research universities in the nation.

The lab, which celebrated its 40th birthday in 2006, works on nearly 250 water-related projects a year and has an annual budget nearing $10 million. With projects in all of Utah's 29 counties and more than 40 international countries, the lab has become one of the go-to places that addresses the technical and societal aspects of water-related issues, including quality, quantity and distribution of water.

Located on the Logan River at the mouth of Logan Canyon, the UWRL was one of the first water labs in the nation and, according to Director Mac McKee, it is the most diverse.

"Our work makes an impact, not only here in Utah, but around the world," said McKee. "We offer such a diverse range of services that we are able to help people in all facets of life. But there is no greater satisfaction than working in a remote village and seeing a smile on someone's face as they receive water from a tap for the first time."

In Utah, researchers from the UWRL are working on water management projects in the Virgin River Basin and Sevier River. Researchers are also looking to help solve Utah's air quality problems. The lab sends water experts on-location to countries around the world in need of water expertise, and many people travel to the Logan facility for training on dam safety and hydraulics.

"Because of our unique location, we are able to divert the entire Logan River right through our building to study hydraulics," said McKee.

The water lab was the vision Dean F. Peterson, dean of the College of Engineering in the late 1950s and George Dewey Clyde, former governor of Utah. Clyde supported the idea for the water lab and, according to Peterson, made the enterprise possible. In his honor the UWRL is housed in the George Dewey Clyde building.

The UWRL has employed numerous professionals over the years, many who dedicated themselves to their work, but it is Betty Hansen who best exemplifies this. Hansen, an office assistant, began working at the UWRL in 1965. She retired in December 2005 after 40 years of hard work.

The lab is part of USU's College of Engineering and offers services in natural systems engineering, air quality analysis, water and science education, environmental management, hydraulics, surface water hydrology, hazardous and toxic waste remediation, public lands planning and management , on-site wastewater treatment training, water quality engineering, dam safety risk management and water resources planning and management.

For more information about the UWRL, visit

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