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Water: resources, policy, and management

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What is water: resources, policy, and management?

The ecological and economic value of water cannot be understated. Students in the water: resources, policy, and management major are preparing to solve challenges facing our global water system, such as developing efficient water systems for homes, ensuring a supply of clean drinking water, and managing the effects of climate change. You’ll graduate prepared to take an active role in finding new and better ways to conserve, use, and sustain vital water resources.

Learn more about this major and the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.

What will I learn in this major?

Students majoring in water: resources, policy, and management are required to take core courses in areas such as watershed assessment, management, and policy; water quality; watershed hydrology; water resources and environmental issues; and physics. Students also complete a number of water science specialization courses, such as aquatic ecosystems, hydrology, water quality, and/or water treatment and public health, as well as courses in water law, planning, and economics; geospatial technology; water policy; and technical writing.   

Why study water: resources, policy, and management at Virginia Tech?

  • Water is our most precious natural resource. According to the EPA, water performs essential functions in nearly every sector of our economy, including energy, agriculture, construction, tourism, fishing, manufacturing, and public water supplies.
  • Our interdisciplinary approach addresses the use of water in natural systems, agricultural contexts, and the built environment. Complementing this science foundation is a deep understanding of the social/human elements of water management.
  • The Virginia Water Resources Research Center housed at Virginia Tech has been recognized as a national leader in water education and outreach, and offers support for researchers, educators, and decision-makers in Virginia.
  • Water Center interns regularly visit Washington, D.C., to meet with other researchers and policymakers. Recent interns Nizhoni Tallas and Ross Cooper completed projects that explored the ways that water informs issues of environmental justice.
  • Internships are highly recommended and a great way to gain experience and connect with employers. Students have completed internships with organizations like DC Water, Engineering Consulting Services, Loudoun Water, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Waynesboro Public Works.
  • You’ll learn from faculty like Kelly Cobourn, who produces models used in protecting and maintaining lakes, and Daniel McLaughlin, who is researching the role that wetlands play in the carbon cycle.
  • You might be interested in a CNRE or integrated Pathways minor that will provide you with additional subject matter expertise, allow you to pursue a passion, and help you stand out in the job market.
  • Student organizations such as the American Water Resources Association provide opportunities to make connections and get involved on campus and in the community.

What can I do with a degree in water: resources, policy, and management?

Graduates in water: resources, policy, and management may enter the job market or pursue a graduate degree in the field. Career possibilities are listed below, and potential employers include agricultural companies, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, AmeriCorps, conservation nonprofits, environmental consulting firms, local/state/federal environmental agencies, and water/wastewater utilities.

  • Environmental scientist or consultant — Assesses air, land, and water contamination.
  • Hydrologist — Applies scientific knowledge to solve problems related to water quality and availability, such as finding water supplies for cities or irrigated farms, controlling river flooding or soil erosion, etc.
  • Water conservation specialist — Recommends ways that business, agriculture, and consumers can save water; administers programs for community groups that want to participate in conservation projects; helps forecast short-term and long-term water supply and demand; participates in creating and promoting water conservation regulations; collects, interprets, and analyzes water use data to see if the water agency is meeting conservation goals; and recommends new water-saving equipment.
  • Water quality analyst — Conducts research or performs investigations for the purpose of identifying, abating, or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect either the environment or the health of the population.
  • Water resources manager — Plans, develops, distributes, and manages the optimum use of water resources.
  • Water supply manager — Exercises general direction over the planning, coordination, and operation of the water treatment.  
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