Hawaii's culture and climate present unique issues and problems of water resource management. Rainfall events in the islands are often intense and short compared to most temperate climates. Hawaiian hydrogeology differs markedly from most other areas. We are almost entirely dependent on groundwater for our drinking water. The islands are closed systems, importing water is not feasible if we overuse or contaminate our aquifers. Our tropical climate permits the usual pollution indicator organisms to grow in the soil, compromising their usefulness for detecting pollution. Our tourism-based economy is dependent upon vigilant stewardship of our nearshore water quality. As a key element of traditional Hawaiian life, water, both fresh and ocean, plays a unique and important cultural role. At WRRC we concentrate on addressing the unique water and wastewater management problems and issues that we in the Pacific face.
WRRC thus serves the state of Hawaii as well as other Pacific islands and elsewhere by researching water-related issues distinctive to these areas. The University of Hawaii established WRRC in response to the Federal Water Resources Research Act of 1964 and the University's own Academic Development Plans. We are Hawaii's link in a network represented in every state as well as Washington, D.C. and three U.S. territories. The centers are organized as the National Institutes for Water Resources. Funding comes from University appropriations, from a small federal program administered by the US Geological Survey and in largest part from external grants and contracts.
Currently, nine faculty researchers, most of whom hold joint appointments with instructional departments, and several staff members join varying numbers of faculty and staff from other units of the UH system in research, service and education projects. As an independent research unit at UH-Manoa, WRRC reports to the Office of the Chancellor, and is thus well positioned to encourage the multidisciplinary research necessary to such a multifaceted resource.