Avista Utilities Establishes University of Idaho Graduate Scholarship for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Program

Monday, March 28 2011

MOSCOW, Idaho – The importance of water resource issues and the need for environmental stewardship have inspired Avista Corp., a Spokane, Wash.-based energy company, to establish an annual scholarship for graduate students in the pioneering Waters of the West program at the University of Idaho.

“Waters of the West is a relatively new program that has already gained some success, prominence and credibility,” said Paul Kimmell, Palouse area regional business manager for Avista. "I have first-hand experience and respect for the program, its faculty and the research it's conducting, so I am confident that this is a great program to invest Avista dollars in."

Waters of the West teaches graduate students to integrate the economic, scientific, legal, social and other aspects of a water basin when working with water leaders to solve water resource management problems.

In Troy, Idaho, for example, a WoW student's scientific and policy analysis of a creek created by a wastewater plant's discharge has revealed a conflict between requirements of the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. A traditional water management approach that was not integrated might have considered only the chemistry of the creek – pollutant levels, oxygen availability and more – and not the policy issues.

Avista has pledged $5,000 or more each academic year to fund a scholarship for one or more full-time graduate students in the interdisciplinary program. The students' research project must be in one of the watersheds in Avista's service territory, which covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and parts of southern and eastern Oregon.

“We see long-term value of this program to the communities we serve. Waters of the West is using the capacity of the regional flagship research institution to do work that is truly relevant...to help manage and solve issues around water and to understand it more,” said Kimmell.

Waters of the West offers the only joint law and water resources master's or doctoral degree in the U.S. Students also can earn a master's or doctoral degree in water resources in one of three option areas: engineering and science; science and management; or law, management and policy.

“Avista is a hydro-based utility so we rely on water for about half of our power generation,” Kimmel said. “Because of that reliance, our tradition of environmental stewardship, commitment to social responsibility and sound management of our watersheds are important to us. So the work in WoW is synching with our core values. The program's interdisciplinary approach is appealing. I believe having that wider breadth and depth of knowledge will directly help our communities.”

Jan Boll, professor of biological and agricultural engineering and WoW director, is thankful for the generosity of Avista.

“Given the economic situation, we are in need of more scholarships like the one Avista is supporting, as well as operational funding to achieve the level of excellence and significant community impact toward which we are striving,” he noted.

The University of Idaho established Waters of the West in 2007 with a five-year seed fund of $1.5 million dollar. The program was one of five initiatives selected from 43 campus-wide proposals.

For more information, visit www.water.uidaho.edu or contact Jan Boll at jboll@uidaho.edu.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

Media Contact: Cynthia (Sunni) Freyer, Waters of the West, (509) 592-4380, sunni@uidaho.edu

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.