Mission, Goals, & History


To promote understanding of critical state and regional water resource management and policy issues through research, community outreach, and public education.


In 1964 the US Congress, realizing that water shortages were a looming issue for the country, reasoned that it would be useful to bring to bear the resources of the nation’s universities to help address the problem. To facilitate this Congress passed, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, the Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) of 1964 (Public Law 88- 379, 17 July 1964).  

Congress’ forward thinking in passing the WRRA paved the way for university researchers to help mitigate the effects of our diminishing water resources in many ways. The program’s early focus on water shortages has broadened to include all aspects of water in the United States. The WRRA has been amended several times since 1964 but the centers’ primary mission continues to be to conduct research on regional water-related issues.  

Across the last 50 years WRRC has produced a wealth of research results and more than 500 reports and peer-reviewed publications. Research focus areas for WRRC have been extremely broad and varied but all share the common element of addressing the evolving needs and problems of the local agencies responsible for managing the waters in Hawaiʻi and American Samoa.  

American Samoa 

Beginning in the 1980s, WRRC also began helping island nations across the Pacific and areas that possess similar climates. From Guam and Saipan to Palau and the Marshall Islands the lessons learned from research in Hawaii has been shared to make the region stronger. 


Specifically in Hawaiʻi, WRRC continues to help concerned agencies respond to water-related crises, with notable past projects being: the discovery of chemical contamination in Oahu’s potable wells in 1983; flooding of Manoa Stream in 2004; the Ala Wai Canal sewage spill of 2006; and the flooding on Kauaʻi in 2018. In these cases WRRC has provided cutting edge research consultation and technical expertise to help responders make the right decisions and maintain the highest level of public safety possible. 

When looking at the historical timeline of WRRCs accomplishments, a decade-by-decade list is helpful.


  • Birth and establishment of WRRC within University of Hawai‘i under 1964 Water Resources Research Act
  • Setting the foundation for cutting edge water-related research in the Pacific


  • WRRC establishes “multidisciplinary” approach to solve water-related issues 
  • First WRRC “multidisciplinary” research team assembled to identify and measure environmental factors determining coastal water quality in Hawaiian Islands
  • State of the art environmental virology and microbiology laboratories built and opened, giving the Pacific region greater capacity to: understand infectious agents (bacteria and viruses) in wastewater, and better manage public health risks related to treatment of sewage at wastewater plants, sewage spills, and wastewater for reuse


  • WRRC’s experts in climatology, engineering, geography, hydrology, and meteorology begin directly supporting local agencies responsible for managing Hawai‘i’s waters use
  • State requests WRRC investigate well-water contamination in Mililani and surrounding vicinity due to pesticides used on Dole Pineapple fields
  • Robust Analytical Model created by WRRC, which becomes the standard tool in hydrological modeling for sustainable water-supply for Hawai‘i
  • WRRC confirms treated wastewater does not affect marine life and water quality of adjacent areas around O‘ahu’s four deep-ocean outfalls. 


  • WRRC researchers contracted by Hawai‘i State Dept. of Health and Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resources Management to devise a comprehensive standardized system for groundwater aquifers used by agencies, engineers, and regulators
  • Pioneering work done on methods of collection as well as maintaining purity of water from rooftop rainwater cistern systems for isolated areas in Hawai‘i
  • Wastewater reuse potential as alternative water source for irrigation in major Hawaiian Islands is enhanced with development of membrane bioreactor and ultraviolet technologies


  • WRRC microbiology researchers verifies that Clostridium perfringens is a more reliable marker of sewage contamination of streams and beaches than fecal indicator bacteria approved by USEPA
  • Data from wind energy study rein-forces future potential of large-scale reverse osmosis desalina-tion efforts to pro-duce fresh water from brackish feedwater
  • Results of study to restore and protect Kaua‘i’s Nawiliwili Watershed used by Hawai‘i Dept. of Health as a model for development of other watershed plans in Hawai‘i—the plan is eligible for implementation funding
  • Study to compare quality of roof-harvested rainwater and other common potable water sources in American Samoa
  • BioLargo, Inc. selects WRRC microbiology team to determine if CupriDyne™ could be an effective alternative to disinfect sewage-contaminated beach sand