by Warren Viessman
From 'History of the UNL Nebraska Water Center, from 1964 to 2008', School of Natural Resources: Karen E. Stork and Steven W. Ress, p. 17.
Director from 1968-1975
I came to Lincoln in December 1968 as the first permanent director of the Nebraska Water Resources Research Institute (NWRRI) and was also appointed Professor of Civil Engineering. I was given an empty office (with movable office dividers) in the Ag Engineering building, had no staff and scant records on operation of the institute up to that time. What I did have was the leadership of an institution I believed had enormous untapped potential to support Nebraska’s water plans for the future. My first job was to hire a secretary who could do, among other things, establish an accounting system for managing institute funds. This secretary was Jan Stroike. Karen Stork came on board as secretary (and later administrative assistant) in September 1971.
Next, I set out to devise an agenda for developing a water resources research, technology transfer, training and educational program focused on meeting the water management needs of Nebraska and the U.S. To assist me, I established an advisory committee of state, federal, and local government agency, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholder representatives concerned with state water management. I also established an executive committee for the institute with credentials in eight water-related academic disciplines at UNL and other Nebraska state colleges. The committees helped identify research needs and capabilities for addressing them. The institute also worked to coordinate water-related research in all segments of the University of Nebraska, with other state colleges, and with state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others.
One of my responsibilities was administering funds provided by the Water Resources Research Act of 1964, the State of Nebraska and other granting agencies. I worked closely with faculty, state and federal agency personnel and others to ensure that the institute’s research program targeted state and national concerns. I established priorities for research funding, and monitored the projects funded through the Nebraska institute.
During my tenure, I initiated a special state research program designed to provide quantitative planning techniques for state agencies and Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts. I supervised regional research planning and coordinated Nebraska water research with other states in the Missouri river basin and with the Missouri River Basin Commission. I was personally engaged in research on hydrologic modeling and water resources systems.
A research highlight, for me was heading a project studying development of the Elkhorn river basin (ably assisted by Dr. Gary L. Lewis of UNL’s Department of Civil Engineering and Isaac Yomtovian, research associate, NWRRI). The Missouri River Basin Commission authorized NWRRI to study potential development of the 7,000 square-mile Elkhorn river basin in central Nebraska and the charges was to screen options for developing the basin’s water resources and identify feasible alternatives. Water uses considered included: irrigation, recreation, water supply, and flood control. The project began in 1973 and finished the following year.
The Missouri River Basin Commission used study results in assessing development options for the Elkhorn river basin. This was a pioneering work, one of the first studies of its kind to incorporate simulation and optimization models simultaneously. At the time, the scale of the model taxed the limits of UNL’s mainframe computer. It also required a lot of my staff’s time punching thousands of computer cards (a process unknown to many of today’s new computer users). The model identified potential sites for development that would generate positive benefits if they were developed.
In my capacity as Professor of Civil Engineering I taught courses on water resources systems analysis and planning. I also developed and conducted seminars and programs of continuing education relative to water resources problems of concern to Nebraska and was responsible for disseminating information on water resources research to help maximize its usefulness to water resources professionals. I served on the Governor's Advisory Committee on the Natural Resources Data Bank, and was a member of the Technical Advisory Committee to the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission. I was also on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Nebraska Water Center Directors.
I developed a broadly attended summer institute program dealing with research-related water resources topics such as applied mathematical programming in water resources, optimal analysis of water resource systems, and simulation of water resources systems. We also inaugurated an annual conference series.
In 1971 I was successful in getting UNL selected as the new administrative home for the Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR). Having UCOWR co-located with the institute increased our visibility in the academic research community and broadened its horizons significantly. From January 1971 to March 1975, I served as UCOWR’s Executive Secretary. In that capacity, I provided information to member universities on current issues in the water field. I also corresponded and visited with university presidents, administrative officers and UCOWR delegates on matters of concern to member universities and kept abreast of federal legislation related to water-resources programs having relevance to the academic community. I also coordinated UCOWR activities with the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), federal water agencies and special commissions.
I resigned my position as institute director in March 1975 to accept the position of Senior Specialist in Engineering and Public Works in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.