Story by Leslie Lee
with Dr. John C. Tracy
n December 2015, Dr. John C. Tracy was officially named director of the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI). Tracy had served as director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Idaho for the last 11 years, also serving as the associate vice president for research and previously as interim vice president for research at the university. With an extensive background in civil engineering — a doctorate and master’s from the University of California-Davis and his bachelor’s from Colorado State University, all in civil engineering — and an impressive research record in agriculture and water resources, Tracy is helping bring interdisciplinary research to the forefront of TWRI’s efforts. txH2O sat down with Tracy to discuss his transition to the institute and get his take on everything from groundwater management to Texas barbecue. How has your background prepared you to be TWRI’s director at this particular time in Texas water? I’ve been in research administration, in particular environmental water resources administration, for more than 15 years, and that has taught me about the
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business of research and the business of outreach and engagement. That preparation was invaluable and enables me to work in a leadership capacity. In regards to the specific issues here in Texas, I’ve worked in a variety of climatological zones — everywhere from Kansas and South Dakota to Nevada, California and Idaho. That doesn’t cover all of the climatological zones found in Texas, but it has allowed me to see many different perspectives on water management and the different approaches for moving research forward. I’ve seen approaches on how to get information to urban settings versus rural settings, the different perspectives that come with areas relying on dryland agriculture versus those on irrigated agriculture, communities living on groundwater versus surface water. And I think that breadth of experience has given me a good foundation to take on this position. But, I also completely understand that the range of water issues in Texas is about as broad as you can get. And they are very representative of the range of water issues you see across the United States and the world. So, even with the good foundation that I have, it is still a learning process.