Michael Strager, WVU – Protecting Water Resources

Michael StragerWater is among our most precious resources.

Michael Strager, associate professor in the Division of Resource Management, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at West Virginia University, is working to mitigate the negative consequences of dangerous chemical spills and protect water.

Michael P. Strager is an associate professor in the Division of Resource Management, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. He specializes in applying spatial data analysis techniques to aid in natural resource management. His research experience covers a wide range of geospatial technologies and applications that include geographic information systems, remote sensing, spatial statistics, and spatial decision support system development. Besides his own research interests he has been an important contributor to many interdisciplinary research projects and teams that require applied spatial analysis.

Protecting Water Resources


Location matters. It’s just as true in the natural and social sciences as it is in real estate, a fact clearly demonstrated last year when a chemical spilled into the Elk River near a water intake plant in Charleston, West Virginia, leaving 300,000 people in nine counties unable to use their water for cleaning, contact or drinking for days.

In analyzing the impact of the spill, and to help state policy makers devise regulations to prevent or react to similar issues in the future, our research team used spatial modeling, incorporating engineering and hydrological equations, to determine how long it takes water to travel to the intakes under variable stream flow and river morphology conditions.

The team used the approach to review all 163 surface water intakes across the state. Conservative protection zones were delineated to help ensure there is adequate time when a spill is reported to ensure the intake is notified and the public is not affected. The upstream extents were then buffered based on stream sizes and analyzed for potential hazards which included above ground storage tanks and chemical storage facilities among other hazards.

Using the findings, state legislators authorized zones of critical concern to extend for five hours of water travel time upstream from all the intakes.

This applied research project demonstrates why location matters in the management and protection of water resources. By uncovering spatial relationships it may be possible to discover unique insights to a problem.  This can lead to better management of our natural resources and to protect the health and well-being of the public.