History


The Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL), located at Utah State University (USU) on the Logan River in Logan, Utah, came into being at the convergence of an idea and some determined and farsighted individuals in the late 1950s. They foresaw the need for a focused investment in water resources research and took action to make a water research facility at USU a reality. Two such individuals were Dean F. Peterson, then Dean of the College of Engineering at USU, and George Dewey Clyde, then governor of the State of Utah. Their continued efforts, along with many others, led to state legislation authorizing the creation of the Utah Water Research Laboratory and to the acquisition of funding for the original structure. 

Federal legislation, in the form of the 1964 Water Resources Research Act, created 53 other university-based water research centers in other states that were in part patterned after the UWRL. From that beginning, the UWRL has become widely recognized around the world as a leading research and educational institution in the water sector.

The Birth of the Utah Water Research Laboratory

Water research at Utah State University is as old as Utah State University itself. Established in 1888 as a Federal Land Grant University, Utah State University was given special assignment to study problems connected with water, soil, plant, and animal life. In 1890 the College of Engineering was organized, and departments under this College gave heavy emphasis to teaching and research in the various aspects of water resource development and use. Many of the Civil and Irrigation Engineering Department staff did research in association with the Agricultural Experiment Station. The establishment of an Engineering Experiment Station in 1918 to conduct research on many kinds of engineering and scientific developments gave engineering staff members further opportunity to engage in water research.


First Dam and the UWRL Site

The concept of a Utah Water Research Laboratory evolved after many years of careful thought and study by individuals with a special interest in water research. The establishment of a laboratory was given impetus in 1949 when Dr. Vaughn E. Hansen of the Civil and Irrigation Engineering Department took pictures of the potential site on the Logan River at the mouth of Logan Canyon. Several years of negotiations and planning involving many individuals and agencies of state and federal governments followed. Commitments from the Utah State Legislature, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation were finally secured in 1959 and the plans for the facility were drawn up.

Sufficient State funds were made available to begin construction of the laboratory in the fall of 1962. The first phase of construction consisted of installing an outlet from the reservoir (with gates) together with a four-foot supply pipe extending to the laboratory site. A bridge was constructed to span the river. Sewer and water lines were brought into the area.

Bids were opened October 1963 for the second phase of the laboratory, designed by architect Kenneth W. Jones and estimated to cost in excess of $1,600,000. Olson and Davis Construction Company of Logan was awarded the contract and subsequently completed construction of the facility. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the laboratory were held in November of 1963. Among state dignitaries participating were George D. Clyde, Governor of Utah, and Glenn R. Swenson, Director of Utah State Building Board. Occupancy of the building began in September 1965.

First step in the construction of the UWRL was the bridge across the river

A skeleton structure began began to form the laboratory’s shape
Front view of laboratory as
construction progressed
Rearview of laboratory
during construction
Staff members started using the newly completed laboratory building in September 1965

On July 12, 1964, the USU Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Vaughn E. Hansen first Director of the Utah Water Research Laboratory. He served in this capacity until his resignation on June 30, 1966.

The dedication of the building was held on December 6 and 7, 1965. Special guests for the occasion included Calvin L. Rampton, Governor of Utah; George D. Clyde, former Governor of Utah; Dr. John C. Calhoun, Jr., Vice President for Programs, Texas A& M University, and formerly Science Adviser to the Secretary of the Interior; Dr. Hunter Rouse, Director, Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, State University of Iowa; and Dr. Daryl Chase, President, Utah State University.

The facility provided approximately 80,000 square feet of space and included a chemical laboratory, bacteriological laboratory, instrumentation laboratory, measurement laboratory, sedimentation laboratory, model laboratories, printing room, publication room, drafting room, instrument shop, machine shop, project rooms, long towing flume, large flume, weighing tanks, volumetric tanks, receiving area, conference rooms, projection room, lecture room, dark room, library, and offices.

 

By 1975, the research program had outgrown the facility. The Environmental Quality Laboratory was housed in makeshift construction behind the Hydraulics Laboratory, and office space was scarce. Additional funding was obtained from the Utah State Legislature, and in 1980 the present UWRL building was completed.

 



UWRL Directors

Dr. Vaughn E. Hansen

Dr. Jay M. Bagley

Dr. Calvin G. Clyde

Dr. Douglas James

Dr. Vaughn E. Hansen
(1965 - 1966)
Dr. Jay M. Bagley
(1966 - 1975)
Dr. Calvin G. Clyde
(1975 - 1976)
Dr. Douglas James
(1976 - 1991)

Dr. David S. Bowles

Dr. Ronald C. Sims

Dr. Mac McKee

Dr. David S. Bowles
(1991 - 1996)
Dr. Ronald C. Sims
(1996 - 2003)
Dr. Mac McKee
(2003 - Present)