The Center for Urban Waters is the result of nearly a decade of work by civic leaders and organizations who dreamed of a premier research center dedicated to developing solutions to the problems facing urban bay communities. In 2002, potential partners — including the City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, University of Washington Tacoma and business leaders — met to outline a vision for the center. Over the next few years, these community leaders raised funds for a feasibility study and an endowment to support a top-flight researcher at the University of Washington Tacoma. Along the way, the partners agreed to combine the research facility with labs and offices for the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services unit. The City of Tacoma’s purchase of former industrial land on the Thea Foss Waterway in 2007 led to detailed planning. Ground was broken in early 2009 and staff began moving into the building in March 2010.


2002: A vision is born
stones in waterA group of community leaders, including representatives from the City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, University of Washington Tacoma and local businesses met to outline the vision for the center.


2003: Board formed
The Russell Family Foundation logoThe Russell Family Foundation granted funding to conduct a feasibility study. An Urban Waters Board of Directors and a Scientific Advisory Group were established.
2004-2005: Community Funds Port of Tacoma Endowed Professorship at UWT
Port of Tacoma logoFour contributors funded the Port of Tacoma Endowed Chair, a top environmental researcher at the University of Washington Tacoma, to lead research at the Center for Urban Waters. The Port of Tacoma, City of Tacoma, SSA Marine and the University of Washington Foundation contributed a total of $3 million for the endowment.
2005-2007: Major contributions
hands upContributions from the Sequoia Foundation, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Russell Investment Group, Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Foundation, and from Urban Waters board members helped support the concept of the Center for Urban Waters.


2007: Land purchase
Aerial photo of land location on Thea Foss WaterwayThe City of Tacoma purchased land in an industrial area on the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway, where the facility would be located.



2007: Dr. Joel Baker Named Urban Waters Science Director
Dr. Joel BakerDr. Joel E. Baker, a leading researcher of water pollution in marine environments, was hired by the University of Washington as the first Port of Tacoma Endowed Chair, where he oversees research that protects the region’s waters, as well as pollution and contamination cleanup efforts.


2009: Groundbreaking
groundbreaking ceremonyThe center’s groundbreaking celebration in April 2009 was attended by U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks and officials from the City of Tacoma, University of Washington Tacoma, and the Puget Sound Partnership.


2010: Substantial completion and grand opening
Center for Urban Waters grand opening ceremonyA grand opening ceremony was held in September 2010. The ceremony recognized the substantial completion of the facility in March 2010 and the arrival of the building’s tenants, the City of Tacoma, University of Washington Tacoma, and Puget Sound Partnership. Governor Chris Gregoire, U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks and Mayor Marilyn Strickland were among the featured speakers.
2010: UW Puget Sound Institute Founded
Puget Sound Institute logoA $4 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency was awarded to the University of Washington Tacoma to create the Puget Sound Institute. The institute, headquartered at the Center for Urban Waters, brings together top scientists to examine issues facing Puget Sound.


2010: Washington Stormwater Center Founded
Washington Stormwater Center logoThe Washington State Department of Ecology selected the University of Washington Tacoma and the Washington State University (WSU) Puyallup Research and Extension Center to create a research and training center focused on innovative stormwater treatment technologies.


2012: Designation of Urban Clean Water Technology Innovation Partnership Zone
clean water zone iconThe Urban Clean Water Technology Innovation Zone is a collaboration of business, research, education and local government leaders designed to accelerate development of a globally competitive, research-based clean water cluster in Tacoma-Pierce County. The Urban Clean Water Technology IPZ is one of 13 Innovation Partnership Zones designated by the Washington State Department of Commerce.  These zones are unique economic development collaborations around research-based efforts that will lead to new technologies, marketable products, company formation and job creation.
2014: UW Freshwater Initiative Recruits Professor Ed Kolodziej to Urban Waters
Dr. Edward KolodziejDr. Edward Kolodziej began his appointment at the University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Autumn 2014 with a joint appointment at Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Tacoma. His research looks at some of the ways that organic compounds like steroids and other pharmaceuticals persist in the environment. Known as contaminants of emerging concern (CEC), these compounds are flushed into Puget Sound and other natural systems every day.