A supply of potable water is a necessity of life for humans and many other creatures. Access to pure drinking water and clean water for ecosystems, irrigation, recreation, and other uses is particularly important. And in an era where external circumstances such as climate changenatural disasters, human development and overall population are increasing simultaneously, this need has become even more vital.

As one of only 54 official institutes throughout the US founded under the federal Water Resources Research Act of 1964, WRRC benefits from a federal program administered by the US Geological Survey (USGS), which allows the Center to leverage university funds, as well as external grants, and contracts, which make up 60 to 65 percent of the annual budget. The Center is also linked into a larger network organized as the National Institutes for Water Resources. 

The problem of limited freshwater resources is more severe in island environments which have a low buffering capacity and thus are highly vulnerable to any kind of change including climate change. As such, the work of WRRC and its partners in Hawaii, American Samoa and across the Pacific is vital because they are the only comprehensive, high capacity resource to address these needs in the Pacific. Lead by eight faculty researchers—many of whom are joint appointees active in such related fields as hydrology, engineering, geography, geology and geophysics, environmental studies, and microbiology––the center promotes cooperation among academic disciplines concerned with water issues and facilitates the transfer of research results to policy bodies and operational agencies. WRRC also promotes advanced education in water-related disciplines through the involvement of students and early career faculty in research projects.