Brian L. Benham, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, has received the university’s 2014 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university. One award goes to an Extension specialist and the other is given to an Extension agent. Each award winner receives $2,000.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2001, Benham currently serves as the director of the Center for Watershed Studies. His work focuses in two key areas: watershed management and planning and private water supply education and groundwater protection.

Benham’s integrated research and extension program strives to develop and disseminate knowledge that promotes effective water resources management to improve water quality. He works with state agencies and citizens to develop local watershed management plans that, when implemented, reduce the level of pollution in lakes, streams, and rivers. He also educates home owners reliant on private water supplies (wells, springs, and cisterns) on how to better care for and maintain their private water supply systems to improve the quality of their drinking water.

Benham oversees the Virginia Household Water Quality Program and Virginia Master Well Owner Network. The shared objective of these programs is to improve the water quality and health of the 1.7 million Virginians who rely on private water supplies for household water. Since 2008, Benham and his team have facilitated more than 66 drinking water clinics across the commonwealth, resulting in the analysis of more than 4,000 water samples serving more than 8,500 citizens.

“Dr. Benham’s work has a significant impact on the health and well-being of thousands of Virginians and the scope of this impact will continue to expand,” wrote Mary Leigh Wolfe professor and head of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in a letter of nomination. “His work has significant and far-reaching impacts on clientele ranging from individual homeowners to state agencies to regional partners.”

“Dr. Benham is making important contributions to water quality issues at local, regional, and national scales,” wrote David J. Hansen, program leader for Oregon Sea Grant Extension at Oregon State University in a letter of nomination. “He collaborates widely within his region and across the country, and is highly regarded for his expertise in water quality.”

Benham received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Texas A&M University and a doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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