The Northwest Watershed Research Center (NWRC) and the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) were established in 1960 to conduct long-term research in the areas of water supply, seasonal snow, soil freezing, water quality and rangeland hydrology. The scope of NWRC and RCEW research has been subsequently broadened to include additional modeling and remote sensing objectives, and landscape-scale processes related to fire and invasive weeds. These new program areas, however, retain a core emphasis on hydrologic processes and the movement of heat and water within and through wildland ecosystems.
Current research topics under investigation at NWRC include: hydrologic modeling of snow distribution, accumulation and melt; frozen-soil effects on infiltration, runoff and erosion; characterization and modeling of heat and water flux within the soil-plant-atmosphere system; spatial and temporal variability in streamflow and water quality parameters of temperature and sedimentation; variability and modeling of weather and climatic variables; wild and prescribed-fire impacts on vegetation, soil and water resources; invasive weed management; emergency-fire rehabilitation; rangeland restoration; remote sensing; and development of decision support tools and models for sustainable management of rangeland ecosystems. NWRC conducts research at a range of scales from point, to field, to basin, and in diverse field sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and western Canada.
NWRC research, conducted under the ARS National Programs in Water Quality and Management; Rangeland, Pasture and Forages; and Global Change, is oriented towards interdisciplinary and systems approaches that address both long-term research needs and critical emerging problems in management of public and private wildlands.