University News

Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin awards funding to UW-Whitewater

August 15, 2023

Written by Kristine Zaballos | Photos by Craig Schreiner

The Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin has awarded $36,711 in funding to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for two projects that will increase water research and training opportunities for high school and undergraduate students and drive university-led research that help fulfill community and government agency needs for water-quality monitoring.

Russell Kashian, professor of economics at UW-Whitewater and director of the university’s Fiscal and Economics Research Center, is principal investigator for “The Cost of Clean Water: An Efficiency Analysis of Wisconsin’s Water Utilities,” which was awarded $24,580 in funding.

“This research builds upon our earlier published work that calculated the price elasticity of demand for tap water in South Milwaukee,” said Kashian. “In reviewing the financial reports of the water utility, we considered the cost of purchasing and using the chemicals necessary to mitigate the contaminants in community and neighborhood wells. This research follows in the rich tradition of environmental economics, which seeks to apply the costs of negative externalities such as contamination to those who created it; the outcome of this analysis may provide the data that allows the utility to properly assess these costs to whatever caused the contamination.”

Kashian will supervise the student researchers, who will develop and analyze the data.

“One hundred percent of the generous funding provided will go to student wages and data and presentation expenses,” said Kashian.

For the analysis, undergraduate students will conduct research through the Institute for Water Business, and the results will be available in a public report and submitted for peer-reviewed publication.


A faculty member and a student collect tiny aquatic organisms from a river.

Elisabeth Harrahy, left, associate professor of biology, and high school student Zoe Mauk collect tiny aquatic organisms during a Freshwater Camp jointly presented by UW-Whitewater and UW-Parkside at Bluff Creek on June 16, 2022.


Elisabeth Harrahy, associate professor of biology at UW-Whitewater, is collaborating on “Water, Health, and Habitat Interactions: Building Capacity for Water Careers and Education,” which was awarded $12,131 in funding. UW-Whitewater will be one of five UW campuses that will implement intensive hands-on courses that were developed specifically for the Freshwater Collaborative. This project will also expand a UW-Milwaukee field course, based on feedback from industry partners, to make it more accessible to students on other campuses or those working full time. Faculty will also build an intensive series of specialized aquaculture courses that complement workforce development efforts.

UW-Whitewater’s collaborative course offering, “Environmental and Health Effects of Water Pollution,” is a hands-on course taught jointly with faculty from UW-Milwaukee and UW-La Crosse.



A student looks at pinpoint-sized water fleas in a vial.

Camper Adam Turner collects pinpoint-sized water fleas for a toxicity experiment in a lab on June 16, 2022 during a weeklong Freshwater Camp jointly presented by UW-Whitewater and UW-Parkside and led by Associate Professor Elisabeth Harrahy.

In June 2022, Harrahy led “Freshwater Camp: A Summer Field Experience for High School Juniors,” a water-focused high school camp in Southeastern Wisconsin that highlighted important freshwater habitats in the region, built confidence and skills with hands-on field and laboratory activities, and introduced potential freshwater career opportunities to students who spent three days at UW-Whitewater, staying in the residence halls at night.

The funding for the projects is part of a statewide initiative, backed by the Wisconsin State Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, to tackle Wisconsin’s grand water challenges and support curriculum development, undergraduate research opportunities, career development, and field training experiences for students interested in studying water-related fields at the 13 UW universities.

“The collaboration of our public universities to protect and preserve Wisconsin’s freshwater will pay dividends for every Wisconsinite for generations,” said UW System President Jay Rothman. “Using the resources and expertise we have at all our 13 universities leverages Wisconsin’s extraordinary higher education system. I am very proud of the work of our students, faculty, and staff on this important initiative.”

Grant descriptions for the latest funded projects are available at

For more information regarding the UW-Whitewater projects, contact Elisabeth Harrahy, associate professor of biology, at or 262-472-1086, or Russell Kashian, professor of economics, at or 262-472-5584.

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