Helping safeguard a new reservoir in north central Missouri  

Researchers at the Missouri Water Center have been awarded a $5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for sustainable water management. They’ll use the funds to ensure that the water remains safe as the basin fills.

Baolin Deng in lab

June 6, 2024
Contact: Eric Stann, 573-882-3346,
Photo by Zac Anderson

While residents of north central Missouri are making plans to fish and boat in a new reservoir being constructed in Sullivan County, University of Missouri researchers are working to ensure that the water remains safe and clean as the basin fills.

Under the direction of Baolin Deng, the University of Missouri’s William Andrew Davidson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the Missouri Water Center, the team is developing tools to monitor water quality at the future site of the Roy Blunt Reservoir near Milan, Missouri. The project is part of a three-year, $5 million grant the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded to Mizzou to better understand and help manage the state’s water resources.

Once built, the reservoir will become a major source of drinking water, as well as a recreation area, for Missourians living in north central and northeastern Missouri.

“We’ll be developing and installing sensors, gauges and other research equipment during the construction of the reservoir to gather valuable research data,” Deng said. “We’ll then monitor soil samples, sediment and the status of the reservoir basin before and after water accumulates to monitor quality and understand changes.”

The information Deng and team collect will allow governmental agencies, including local water commissions, to make any adjustments needed to preserve the quality of water during construction, which is expected to take four to five years.

When complete, the reservoir is expected to provide 7 million gallons of water a day to more than 100,000 people in the surrounding 10-county region. The project has a design life of 100 years.

In addition to the reservoir project, the grant will allow the Missouri Water Center at Mizzou to further its mission of becoming the center of water research in the state.

“Water, in sufficient quantity and quality, is critical for maintaining global human and environmental health,” Deng said. “In the United States, the management of water resources is becoming more integrated, including how to respond to issues such as a changing hydroclimate and emerging contaminants. At Mizzou, we want to make sure we understand how we can measure, monitor and adapt to changes in water uses, quality and hydrology, all of which are essential for long-term sustainable use of water resources.”

This integration is critical to the livelihood and economy of midwestern states like Missouri, especially as the state has experienced frequent severe flooding and drought in recent years.

“Missouri is at the confluence of Missouri River and Mississippi River,” Deng said. “These rivers provide drinking water for almost half of Missouri’s residents as well as water-related activities, including recreation, irrigation, power generation, power storage, flood control, commercial navigation and are a source of significant economic activity and opportunity.”

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