Penn State has a long and rich history of engaged, innovative, and impactful water and water-related research. This portfolio of work encompasses the natural, social, and health sciences, engineering, policy and law, communications, the arts, and more. Building on this breadth and depth of expertise, Penn State has launched a University-wide water initiative involving more than 170 faculty and staff engaged in research, teaching, and outreach.

This Penn State water community is collectively benefiting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and communities around the world by advancing the understanding and demonstrating solutions in four areas of emphasis:

  1. Protecting Public Health and the Environment – Advancing understanding of human and ecological health and ecosystem services, supporting vibrant and sustainable economies, and developing solutions to address both enduring water quality problems and contaminants of emerging concern.
  2. Advancing Resilient Communities on a Dynamic Earth – Strengthening understanding of fundamental Earth processes across scales, addressing flood and drought challenges, and developing and demonstrating innovations that enhance resilience to extreme weather events through actionable climate solutions.
  3. Driving Innovation and Technology – Developing and deploying next-gen tools, techniques, and water-related materials, advancing data-driven solutions, and actively using the University as a living lab in the service of meeting the world’s most pressing water challenges.
  4. Guiding Social Action, Policy, and Corporate Transformation – Strengthening public governance, water ethics, and environmental justice, enhancing water security at individual to national scales, improving private sector performance, and integrating the arts and humanities for improved awareness, understanding, and culturally-appropriate solutions.

In addition to and across these four areas of emphasis, the initiative is further advancing the University’s land-grant mission through actions on two foundational pillars:

  1. Transforming Water Education and Student Opportunities – Expanding formal (degreed) and extracurricular avenues for student exposure to interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives on water to enhance their Penn State experience and strengthen their knowledge and networks for an impactful future.
  2. Engaging People, Communities, and Partner Institutions – Supporting current and future community-based water initiatives, providing outreach and extension services, identifying and developing public, private, and civil society partnerships strategic to University water priorities, and enhancing water-related communications.

The Penn State Water Council is responsible for strategic planning and development and coordinates the University’s water initiative.