Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy Outreach (IPO) is continuing a partnership with the New River Valley Development Corporation to develop a New River Valley Regional Water Authority. The Regional Water Authority will help meet the region’s ongoing water supply needs in case of drought and shortages brought on by the contamination of traditional water sources. The project is currently evaluating the combination of eight separate local water systems into one comprehensive authority.

The partnership began in 2002 with discussions on how to avoid potential water shortages such as those that threatened the region from 1999 to 2001, and how to create a more comprehensive regional water strategy. The IPO initially conducted a preliminary feasibility analysis for the development of a regional water plan in the New River Valley. According to Dave Rungren, executive director of the New River Planning District Commission, “the feasibility study indicates that regional cooperation will lead to a more reliable ongoing source of water for the area’s residents and businesses as well as the ability to contain costs over the long-term.”

The IPO and New River Valley Development partnership will further develop the governance structure and administrative arrangements to create the regional water authority. The project has been supported through grant funding provided by the Rural Development Agency and through the support of local governments. Additional work will include the preparation of a budgeting model and hydraulic design model for construction of the project. Future plans include contracting with local engineering firms to prepare a preliminary engineering report.

To date the work on the project has been accomplished by the New River Valley Planning District Commission, IPO staff that includes faculty and students from the Center for Public Administration and Policy and faculty and students from Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information and Technology.

In addition to the IPO’s ongoing role identifying and framing the multi-jurisdictional public sector role, faculty and students from Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology have been and will continue to be engaged in the project through application of GIS technologies and by addressing the complex array of engineering and regulatory compliance issues.

“This ongoing project represents Virginia Tech’s commitment to creating and leading collaborative arrangements that solve critical problems – whether these problems exist half way across the world or in our own backyard,” states Paul Knox, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies which includes the Institute for Policy Outreach.

The end result of the regional water plan is expected to be the creation of a Regional Water Authority that will engage local governments in a collaborative approach to meet existing and future needs for a secure and plentiful water supply.

“Shared infrastructure and innovative approaches to brokering water among participants allows each locality to improve and expand the provision of public water supplies with a significant reduction in costs,” said John Talbott, associate director of the Institute for Policy Outreach and project manager. “This will spur economic development and improve the public health in areas that may currently depend on ground water sources that have become contaminated through human influences.”

Established in 2000, the Institute for Policy Outreach (IPO) is part of the Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP), in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). The School of Public and International Affairs is part of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. The IPO conducts research and outreach for state and local government and nonprofit institutions, addressing public policy challenges such as healthcare, social services, regional infrastructures, and workforce and economic development. The IPO strives to improve the effectiveness of various government and institutional programs through research and the development of public policy approaches and believes that better information can lead to improved public policy, and that both public and private institutions have critical roles to play in the solution of public problems.

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies is one of the largest of its type in the nation. CAUS is composed of two schools and the departments of landscape architecture, building construction, and art and art history. The School of Architecture + Design includes programs in architecture, industrial design and interior design. The School of Public and International Affairs includes programs in urban affairs and planning, public administration and policy, and government and international affairs. The college enrolls more than 2,000 students offering 22 degrees programs taught by 160 faculty members.