The Water Resources Management (WRM) program is an interdisciplinary graduate program leading to a master of science (M.S.) degree in water resources management. The program addresses the complex, interdisciplinary aspects of managing water resources by helping students integrate the biological and physical sciences (which identify and assess problems) with engineering (which defines technological alternatives) as well as law and the social sciences (which assess needs and potential for institutional response). Through the WRM program, a student gains breadth in relevant planning and management areas while developing depth in an area specialty.

The water resources management degree is designed to prepare students for employment as water resources management professionals. Rather than conduct individual research projects, WRM students participate in a summer group practicum workshop with a water resources management focus. Students who wish to add individual research credentials to their records frequently arrange to complete a second, simultaneous master's program in one of the university's traditional departments. Those interested primarily in individual research may wish to consider the Nelson Institute's Environment and Resources program as an alternative. The WRM program does not offer a doctoral degree.

Any person who attended an accredited institution and earned an undergraduate degree there in the biological sciences, earth sciences, economics, education, engineering, history, journalism, landscape architecture, law, mathematics, physical science, political science, urban and regional planning, or other relevant field may apply for admission to the WRM program.

Two tracks are available. All applicants should apply for the regular 45-credit track, which provides depth in an area specialty in addition to breadth in resource management and planning. The alternate track (30 to 44 credits) is for those who have at least three years of pertinent professional experience or for those advanced students who already have a related master's degree prior to entering the program. Either such candidate may appeal for the alternate track based on their background. The alternate track, also known as the reduced-credit track, can be pursued with the consultation of one's faculty advisory committee once that candidate is enrolled in the program. The candidate's advisory committee and the program chairperson make the final determination as to whether or not the alternate track is appropriate. No thesis is required for either track, but every WRM student must complete the 2-credit spring planning seminar and the associated 4-credit summer group practicum workshop.

Graduate School Admissions

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic degree programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet requirements of both the program(s) and the Graduate School. Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.  

Fall Deadline January 15
Spring Deadline October 15
Summer Deadline January 15
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3


Application materials for Water Resources Management must be received by January 15 for admission to the following summer session or fall semester and by October 15 for admission to the following spring semester.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources

In most cases Water Resources Management is unable to guarantee any funding to students. However, many of our students obtain funding through other departments on campus, and we recommend that students contact faculty or departments directly if they have teaching skills in specific areas. Individual faculty members occasionally have their own sources of support for project assistants, though we strongly urge students not to depend on these as guaranteed sources of funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No Yes

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement M.S.: 45 credits
M.S.: reduced-credit track: 30–44 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Grades of BC or C are not typically accepted toward program requirements unless the grade is allowed by the student’s faculty advisory committee and the program chair. Grades of BC and C may not be used in the area specialty category. A maximum of 3 credits graded S may be counted toward program requirements if approved by the student’s faculty advisory committee and the program chair. Courses that are audited or graded pass/fail or credit/no credit will not count toward program requirements.
Assessments and Examinations All students must hold an evaluation and guidance conference with their faculty advisory committee, preferably no later than their third semester in the program.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

Breadth Requirements
Category A: Natural Science & Technology 19
Category B: Water Resources Institutions & Public Decision-Making Processes 29
Category C: Analytical & Design Tools in Water Resources 36
Area of Specialty 415
Summer Group Practicum & Workshop
ENVIR ST/​CIV ENGR/​URB R PL  718 Water Resources Management Practicum Planning Seminar II2
ENVIR ST/​CIV ENGR/​URB R PL  719 Water Resources Management Summer Practicum4
Total Credits45

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With faculty advisory committee and program chair approval, students are allowed to count graduate coursework from other institutions. The number of such credits is determined on a case-by-case basis. Coursework completed five or more years prior to admission to the program is not allowed to satisfy graduate degree or graduate coursework requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the program.

UW–Madison University Special

With faculty advisory committee and program chair approval, students are allowed to count up to 15 credits of coursework taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Such credits from courses numbered 300 and higher can count toward graduate residency and graduate degree requirements. Credits from graduate-level courses (courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide) can count toward the graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed five or more years prior to admission to the program is not allowed to satisfy graduate residency, graduate degree, or graduate coursework requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status).
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).


All students must assemble a three-member faculty advisory committee that represents a minimum of two departments, preferably no later than their second semester in the program. To meet the interdisciplinary requirement the committee must include members tenured in one of the natural sciences divisions (Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences) and one of the social sciences divisions (Social Studies, Arts & Humanities).


15 credits

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Expand their knowledge of the physical, chemical, biological, and social sciences and learn how to apply this knowledge to the management of water resources.
  2. Understand water resource decision-making at governance levels from local to national.
  3. Use a wide range of analytical tools to sustainably manage water resources.
  4. Participate in as well as lead interdisciplinary teams.
  5. Orally and in writing communicate to stakeholders the findings and recommendations of interdisciplinary projects.
  6. Have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

Faculty Executive Program committee

Anita Thompson (Program Chair), Jean Bahr, Paul Block, Michael Cardiff, Kenneth Genskow, James Hurley, Steven Loheide, Sharon Long, Kenneth Potter, Stephen Ventura, Paul Zedler (Ex Officio)