Press Releases

The Water Institute of the Gulf celebrates 10 years of science and collaboration

Dec 1, 2021

BATON ROUGE, La. (Dec. 1, 2021) – The Water Institute of the Gulf (The Water Institute) is celebrating a decade of connecting public, private, and academic collaborators to address some of the most pressing challenges facing Louisiana and coastal communities everywhere.

The Water Institute was founded in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Following those destructive storms, Louisiana leaders, led by former Senator Mary Landrieu and Garret Graves, then Chairman of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), decided it was time for a new approach in addressing water management and applied river-coastal research.

Following several fact-finding trips to Deltares, the renowned water management research institute in the Netherlands, there was a push to form something similar in Louisiana. In late 2011, that vision became a reality with the formation of The Water Institute through a collaborative effort involving the State of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF).

“The breadth of The Water Institute’s applied science reach is so far greater than many of us thought possible. And to have accomplished all of this in only one short decade is breathtaking. Congratulations, Justin and team,” said John Davies, President and COE of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

“The Water Institute of the Gulf is a promising center of excellence for coastal restoration and resiliency. Its partnership with CPRA and leading universities in our nation will help develop the science and technology necessary to secure the future of coastal cities everywhere,” said former Senator Mary Landrieu.

The Water Institute formed as a hub to connect the academic, public, and private research communities and conduct applied research to support decision-making. In 2014, The Water Institute was selected as the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana, administering a grant program that provides million in funding for academic researchers working on topics to strengthen and inform the state’s Coastal Master Plan.

“We created The Water Institute of the Gulf to ensure that science, not politics, guided our efforts to protect and sustain all that we love about south Louisiana,” said U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (LA-06). “The Water Institute serves as the center of the collaboration to bring to the table the best Louisiana has to offer from academia and other coastal stakeholders as they play an important role in addressing our tens of billions of dollars in problems in Louisiana. They are also the tip of the spear in developing solutions – designed in fact by Louisianians – implicating trillions of dollars in solutions for coastal countries around the world.”

Furthering that vision, in 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards named The Water Institute as the state’s Coastal Innovation and Collaboration Hub, recognizing that science and open sharing of information is a vital basis for decision-making in large scale efforts like the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan.

“A coastline as special as Louisiana's comes with its own unique set of challenges, and for 10 years, The Water Institute has devoted its efforts to identifying those challenges and researching potential solutions,” CPRA Chairman Chip Kline said. “We’re grateful for the institution's decade-long dedication to providing the best available science to inform our state's coastal decision making."

While The Water Institute’s main focus will always remain in Louisiana, one of the founding visions was to take what we’ve learned in Louisiana and export that knowledge to other parts of the country and world.

“The Water Institute was built on the shoulders of so many giants who have been developing innovative solutions to our most pressing water challenges in South Louisiana and around the world,” said Justin R. Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of The Water Institute. “It’s an honor to serve as a collaboration hub at home in Louisiana and to share our knowledge with and learn from so many other coastal communities. We couldn’t be more excited for the next 10 years.”

In the last 10 years, The Water Institute’s work has focused on projects such as Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, coordinating expert panels on the state’s diversion program, developing resiliency strategies for Houston, Charleston, and communities around Louisiana. More recently, The Water Institute’s work includes a close partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a variety of topics, developing a SmartPort for the lower Mississippi River, facilitating the state’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, Blue Carbon quantification, and facilitating the Partnership for Our Working Coast in Port Fourchon. In all, The Water Institute’s work focuses on bringing applied research and science-based decision support to our most pressing water challenges.

“The team here at The Water Institute would like to thank all of our partners who have made the last 10 years so rewarding and look forward to the coming decades of collaboration in making a difference to the communities we serve,” Ehrenwerth said.

More information about our 10th anniversary is available here.