Politicians, college leadership statewide and others from the Delaware state science community gathered Jan. 11 at Delaware State University to kick off a $19.2-million federal grant to research water issues and solutions for the state and beyond.

Project WICCED — Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware — is a cooperative endeavor of the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College and Wesley College.

The federal grant comes through the state’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Started in 2003, Delaware’s EPSCoR program provides federal research money to states that typically don’t get that funding.

“This grant provides opportunities that we would not be able to offer our students without this collaboration,” said Wesley President Robert E. Clark II. “This type of research and forward thinking is essential as we work to solve tomorrow’s challenges today.”

More than 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted making this issue an important one for the overall health of the state’s population, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. With the support of state leadership, Delaware will fund the grant project with an additional $3.8 million.

Delaware is the country’s lowest-lying state making it highly susceptible to rising sea levels and an opportunity to research, collaborate and find solutions that would not only improve Delaware water but be a leader in water solutions. The rising sea levels affect wildlife that depends on freshwater wetlands that could be contaminated by saltwater which is only one example of the water issues facing the state.

The five-year grant will assemble teams throughout Delaware’s institutions of higher education to collect and research the state’s water quality and help find solutions to the threats facing the water supply. Once the information is collected and assessed, the collaborators will develop technical and public policy solutions to address the water quality threats to the state.

The grant was made possible by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Grant No. 1757353 and the state.