What happens in the Center for Urban Waters?


Environmental research explores fundamental and applied scientific questions, providing the foundation for rational and effective environmental stewardship. The center is designed to attract researchers and scientists from across the Pacific Northwest to form collaborative teams to conduct leading-edge environmental research.


State-of-the-science analytical laboratories support scientists who are monitoring levels of pollutants in water, soils, sediment, flora and fauna, and air throughout the Puget Sound region. The City of Tacoma Environmental Services group monitors environmental quality and conducts targeted studies to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration and control programs. The City operates a well-equipped Department of Ecology-certified water quality laboratory with experienced staff. University of Washington Tacoma research laboratories are used to develop new sampling and analytical methods to investigate emerging issues.


Teams of researchers and engineers work to extract information from a wide variety of data, providing quantitative, unbiased assessments for policymakers. By co-locating environmental researchers, analysts, planners and practitioners, the center creates natural synergies where science, engineering and policy meet. Integrating ideas and information across these groups facilitates timely and coherent analyses of important issues.


The latest scientific findings and assessments inform policy makers in their development of innovative plans for effective environmental restoration, stewardship and sustainable growth. This technology transfer occurs at a range of scales, from assistance with local land use issues to strategic regional scale planning. The center’s structure allows substantial opportunities for rapid movement of ideas from the lab to implementation and for management needs to inspire and inform our research agenda.


Undergraduate and graduate students work side-by-side with Urban Waters scientists and analysts, developing necessary skills for successful careers in environmental science and management. Students enrolled at the University of Washington Tacoma may participate through capstone and senior thesis research projects, and through internships. Graduate students from any UW environmental program may also conduct their research in collaboration with faculty affiliated with the Center for Urban Waters. In addition, staff from a variety of specialties work with the Foss Waterway Seaport to support their K-12 education programs to pass on environmental science to the next generation of students.