The Rhode Island Water Resources Center’s (RIWRC) mission is to focus its primary efforts on researching the most pressing of state and regional water issues to provide understanding and resolution. Grants are awarded to Rhode Island faculty and partnering professionals to facilitate this research while enhancing the education and training of future water resources graduates and developing interest in the water resources field.
Dr. Harry Knickle, a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Rhode Island, has guided the information transfer program at the Rhode Island Water Resources Center. Between the years 2006 and 2013 Harry Knickle held a summer camp for high school science students, a clean water drinking conference for college students, faculty, and industry professionals, a workshop for middle and high school teachers, and yet another conference on recycling and conservation. The Rhode Island Water Resources Center strives to make the information they provide accessible to all, which has been achieved through open registration and free admission.
In 2006, Professor Mayrai Gindy, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, at the University of Rhode Island, made an extensive investigation of Rhode Island’s current hazard rating scheme for the state’s system of dams. Professor Gindy’s project relied heavily on researching current hazard rating schemes and the combination of said methods to present an updated and improved “Assessment of Downstream Hazard Potential for Dam Failure in Rhode Island”. The Rhode Island Water Resources Center is recognizing Mayrai Gindy’s work as the most significant research supported by the RIWRC since 2003 because of the thoroughness of the presented topic and the potential for the application of Dr. Gindy’s findings within Rhode Island and across the Nation. After its completion, Mayrai Gindy’s research received follow-on funding from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and the New England University of Transportation totaling $138,814. Rhode Island Water Resources Center grants assisted Mayrai Gindy in securing a promotion and tenure.
A brief overview of additional research supported by the Rhode Island Water Resources Center includes two research projects relevant to the matter of improved summertime irrigation methods; the collection and purification of rainwater for landscaping uses, and the design of a treatment system to allow recycling of water used for freshwater agriculture. In response to Rhode Island’s request for a security overhaul of the state’s water resources, the RIWRC has awarded research grants toward projects with such purposes as making assessments of security risks at water infrastructures with the desired outcome of the adoption of standard methodology for said assessments. In 2001, a severe concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons were found present within the Pascoag fractured rock aquifer. In 2005, Dr Boving, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, responded by taking the opportunity to submit a proposal to use tracers to track the flow and fate of the contaminate and to brainstorm methods of extraction.
Research projects supported by the Rhode Island Water Resources Research Center and currently underway include Dr. Boving’s study of the “Influx of petroleum hydrocarbons to impermeable surfaces and surface water” and Dr. Craver’s proposal entitled “The use of manometric techniques to evaluate the disinfection properties of nanomaterials for the treatment of different sources of drinking water.” Both of these projects create opportunities for students to take part in university level research and partially subsidize the tuition of multiple graduate students at URI.
A more recent project studies the earthquake stability of a major dam in Rhode Island. The Gainer dam is the largest and one of the most important dams in the state of Rhode Island as it retains the Scituate reservoir that provides clean water to over 60% of the state population. Although Rhode Island is not in a zone of high seismic activity there is still risk to the dam from earthquakes. Soil liquefaction from ground shaking is one of the most important considerations as it can reduce the strength of the soil in the dam potentially leading to catastrophic failure. Dr. Bradshaw and his research team at URI are researching ways to simply and rapidly screen for the potential for liquefaction in an earth dam. These will be used for a preliminary assessment of the liquefaction potential of the Gainer dam. The research team has already collected some soil samples from the dam using a shallow hand auger as shown in Figure 1 below.