What is water: resources, policy, and management?

The economic value of water cannot be understated, not to mention its ecological value. 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.   

Students in this major learn to conserve our most precious resource: water.

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.
  • CNRE’s comprehensive program is the most interdisciplinary water degree offered in the U.S. and the first of its kind in Virginia. The broad curriculum is built on a collaborative partnership across the university that includes five colleges and seven departments outside of CNRE.
  • 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.
  • Due to this approach and an expanding need for experts in the field, the major integrates well with and offers study options and job opportunities within related disciplines like water engineering, aquatic ecology, and human health.
  • The Virginia Water Resources Research Center housed at Virginia Tech has been recognized as one of the nation’s outstanding water resources programs and offers support for researchers, educators, and decision-makers in Virginia.
  • Students interested in research can apply for competitive grants through the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which funds projects addressing critical water issues in the commonwealth, as well as research fellowships and internships at the center.
  • Water resources research at Virginia Tech is taking place on the effects of vegetation and land management on water quality and quantity, site productivity, erosion, and sedimentation.
  • Students can also earn a minor in watershed management.

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 government environmental agencies, agricultural companies, engineering firms, environmental consulting firms, and nonprofit conservation organizations.

  • 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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