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Water Research Laboratory, Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Institute History

The Kentucky Water Research Institute (KWRI) is one of 54 federally authorized water resource institutes and centers located at land grant universities throughout the United States and its territories.  The Institute operates under the authority of the Water Resources Research Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-379 codified at 42 U.S.C. 10301 et seq.) which authorized the establishment of a water resources research and technology institute or center in each state. The institutes were charged with (1) arranging for competent research that addresses water problems or expands understanding of water and water-related phenomena, (2) aiding the entry of new research scientists into the water resources fields, (3) helping to train future water scientists and engineers, and (4) getting results of sponsored research to water managers and the public. The U.S. Geological Survey administers the program as the Water Resources Research Institutes (WRRI) Program under the general guidance of the Secretary of the Interior.

The WRRA of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10303) reauthorized the WRRI program, which was further amended by the 101st, 104th, 106th, and 109th Congresses. Originally, these changes require institutes to match each federal dollar received through the program with two non-federal dollars and specify that the federal funds are not to be used to pay the indirect costs of the institutes. Recent changes have reduced the non-federal match requirements for the program from 2:1 to 1:1. Congressional support for the program has been strong throughout the years, and the level of funding has risen steadily since 2019.

Located on the campus of the University of Kentucky, KWRI has been involved in water resources issues for over 50 years and has established itself as an important link between water-related personnel at academic institutions, local, state, and federal government agencies, and the private sector. TThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated KWRI as Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in 2010. This program has since been discontinued by the EPA.

The Institute was established in 1964 by Dr. Robert A. Lauderdale, a Civil Engineering professor. Since that time, there have been seven other individuals directing the Institute. Dr. Jason Unrine assumed his current position as director in 2022. Prior to the appointment of Dr. Jason Unrine, Kentucky Water Research Institute was managed by the following directors:

Photo of Douglas James, Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Leonard Douglas James

1964 - 1966

Photo of David T Kao  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

David T. Kao 

1983 - 1987

Photo of Bob Volk,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Bob G. Volk

1999 - 2001

Photo of Robert Lauderdale, Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Robert A. Lauderdale

1966 - 1973

Photo of Billy Barfield,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Billy J. Barfield

1988 - 1992

Photo of Jim Kipp,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

James A. Kipp

2001 - 2004

Photo of Robert Grieves, Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Robert B. Grieves

1974 - 1981

Photo of Lyle Sendlein,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Lyle V.A. Sendlein

1992 - 1998

Photo of Lindell Ormsbee,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Lindell E. Ormsbee

2004 - 2022

Ralph Huffsey

Ralph R. Huffsey

1982 - 1983

Photo of Lindell Ormsbee,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Lindell E. Ormsbee

1998 - 1999

Photo of Jason Unrine,  Photo Credit: University of Kentucky

Jason M. Unrine

2022 - Present

Since its inception, the Institute has sponsored short courses and conferences, supported hundreds of students in many departments and colleges, and produced numerous research reports. Many journal articles have been published by faculty and research staff associated with the Institute.

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