Contact: Media contact: Nick Houtman, Dept. of Public Affairs, 207-581-3777; Steve Kahl, Mitchell Center, 207-581-3286
ORONO, Maine — A University of Maine scientist has become president-elect of the National Institutes for Water Resources, NIWR. Steve Kahl, a geochemist and director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research at UMaine, also coordinates Maine’s federally funded water resources research program.
NIWR is a network of 54 water research institutes located in every state, trust territory and the District of Columbia. They receive federal funding through the U.S. Geological Survey. Directors work with local, state and federal agencies to tailor water research activities to local circumstances and priorities.
Kahl says that his new role will be an opportunity for UMaine to raise its national visibility and open doors at research funding agencies. The duties of the position include providing testimony to Congress on the Water Resources Research Institute program and working with federal agencies to enhance research and management of water resources. Kahl has already addressed the National Academy of Sciences about the future of Water Resources Research.
The election of a NIWR president from Maine is noteworthy because the position has historically been held by water research directors from western states with programs that are larger than those in the East. Only one NIWR president in the past decade has been from an eastern state (North Carolina in 2000).
In the most recent program review, the USGS cited the Mitchell Center as a “model for national water centers,” and was especially complimentary of the fiscal management of the Mitchell Center for leveraging a small base budget into a significant program.
Kahl’s research focuses on watershed processes that affect water quality in streams, lakes, and groundwater. He has worked closely with state and federal organizations on questions as diverse as acid rain, mercury, forestry, lakes, and salt contamination of groundwater. The Mitchell Center has 20 graduate students and a well-equipped research laboratory for inorganic environmental chemistry.