The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

M.S. in Water, Society, and Policy

Water sustainability has emerged as perhaps the most critical natural resource issue in the western United States as well as in other semi-arid regions around the world.  More recently, even wet regions have come to face similar problems of water scarcity and conflict, due to growing demands and competition for water. 

To meet the demands imposed by water scarcity, the University of Arizona now offers a Master of Science in Water, Society and Policy (WSP).  The purpose of this degree is to provide opportunities for students to pursue professionally oriented study in a multi-disciplinary degree program that focuses on water science, society, and policy. The WSP degree combines graduate coursework in social science, policy and hydrology with professional skill-development activities.  Students are exposed to human and environmental processes as they affect water and watersheds. They gain familiarity with quantitative and qualitative techniques for observation, monitoring, and modeling of processes relevant to the management of water from regional to global scales. They develop skills to communicate with decision makers; conduct and understand scientific research; write cogent research reports, proposals, and policy evaluations; and make effective public presentations.

Graduates of the program are able to understand the basic principles of hydrology, social science, management, law, and policy and are able to contribute to making informed decisions regarding water resources.


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List of courses

Article about the WSP degree by Sharon Megdal

Career Resources



Faculty Advisors

Although you do not need an advisor to be admitted to the program, it is a good idea to contact faculty prior to applying. 





Laura Bakkensen Assistant Professor, School of Government and Public Policy
Elizabeth Baldwin Assistant Professor, School of Government and Public Policy
Courtney Crosson Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture
Gregg Garfin
Associate Professor and Associate Extension Specialist, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Deputy Director for Science Translation & Outreach, Institute of the Environment
Andrea Gerlak Associate Professor, School of Geography and Development
Stuart Marsh Director, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Sharon Megdal Director, Water Resources Research Center (Sabbatical 2018-2019)
Tom Meixner Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources

Affiliated Faculty




Assistant Professor, Soil, Water, and Environmental Science and Extension
Professor, Department of Agriculture and Economics Resources
Associate Professor, American Indian Studies
Professor, Rogers School of Law
Director, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
Professor, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
Professor, School of Geography and Development

Degree Requirements



Application deadline: No deadline for domestic students (rolling admissions). International students must apply 4 months prior to the start of the semester in which they wish to begin.


• A Bachelor’s degree
• Minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
• Minimum score of 550 on the paper-based, 213 on the computer-based, or 79 on the internet- based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for all applicants whose native language is not English


The program does not have prerequisites, though some core electives require economics (AREC 575) or physics and calculus (WSM 560A).


Coursework  (15 units must receive regular grades)

Total Units for Degree 32

Core courses: 12-13 units
RNR 696W -- Water, Society and Policy Seminar:  2 units

Elective courses: 12-14 units


List of courses

MS Project:  6 units of RNR 909
No minor required
Final Committee is faculty advisor or 1 tenured, tenure track or equivalent faculty member if approved by faculty advisor.


• A PLAN OF STUDY must be completed in the 2nd semester for M.S. Students
• A PROJECT PROPOSAL must be approved by your faculty advisor in the 2nd semester.
• You must file an annual report each year by April 15th
• You will be enrolled in RNR 696W your first and second semester in the program


Note: This sheet is a digest of degree requirements. Students should become familiar with the Graduate Catalog policies and the SNRE Graduate Student Handbook. The latter is available from the Academic Coordinator or on the SNRE website. If you have questions, see your major advisor.


Examples of internships and projects


Graduate Student Funding Opportunities

Unlike programs in other fields of study (e.g., Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology), SNRE does not have departmental funding for students. Because students are rarely accepted without funding, funding is something you will need to think about and discuss with potential faculty advisors very early in your conversations with them.


Here are the primary ways students are funded:

• Some students come in with funding (e.g. NSF pre-doctoral, Fulbright, host country sponsorship, CALS Fellowship awards, other fellowships).
• Many faculty fund an incoming student within an existing grant. This means the faculty provides a job for a new student or the new student agrees to perform the research as their own graduate project.  This is the most common situation in SNRE as we don’t have departmental funds to support students.
• Some students supplement the funding they receive from faculty or TAships with grants and fellowships during grad school. You'll find out more about how to apply for them, who is eligible, application deadlines, etc., once you are here.
• Some students in SNRE teach as a teaching assistant (TA). Unlike other schools, TA jobs aren't guaranteed because of the lack of funding for TAs.  Most faculty in the department will give a TA position they have to their own students, but not always—you may get lucky.  Many students seek TAships in other departments.  The General Biology courses usually hire about 30 TAs each semester and our students often get at least a few of those positions.



Here is a list of resources to help you locate funding to support your tuition and fees or your research.


Scholarships, Fellowships and Grants   

Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship Program (for returned Peace Corps Volunteers)
Sloan Foundation Indigenous Grant Partnership (Two year fellowship for Native American graduate students in the Water, Society and Policy MS program)
Edmund S. Muskie, Freedom Support Act Fellowships (for international students from the former Soviet Union)
Graduate College Fellowships (for incoming graduate student; SNRE applies annually for Fellowship support (~$5000), and faculty select one or two students to receive funds.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Scholarships (These are Tuition scholarships. SNRE's Academic Coordinator assists a faculty committee that sets distribution of funds among graduate students nominated by their faculty advisor for all admitted graduate and undergraduate students).
McGinnies Fellowship (for doctoral students)
T and E, Inc., Small Grants
Travel Grants (Graduate and Professional Student Council) 




Admissions Information and the Online Application



You must submit an online application with the Graduate College. All application materials can be uploaded into the online application system, including unofficial documents and TOEFL score reports.  The online application will ask you for the program and option to which you are applying and you will need to list all faculty with whom you have been in correspondence. 



Required documents that you will asked for in the online application include:

•   A letter of intent
•   A summary of coursework form (Students coming from institutions outside of the US are also required to list courses and grades.  The U.S is on a 4.0 scale, but other countries are on a scale of 10 or 100. Just make a note on the scale on which you received your grades).
•   A minimum of 3 letters of recommendation.
The application will generate an email request for the letters after you enter your recommenders’ contact information.  This is the only part of the application that you can edit once you submit the application.  You will be able to see who has sent their letter and who has not.  You will be able to add recommenders throughout the process in case one of your recommenders does not respond.  Please see the application tips link for tips on selecting recommenders.  Your recommenders can choose to use regular mail, or send an email with the letter attached to the graduate coordinator.  You can let them know this, but these instructions are also in the email that is sent via the online mechanism.
•  Official transcripts from all Colleges and Universities attended.
•  GRE scores.  The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) IS NO LONGER REQUIRED FOR ADMISSION. If you have already taken the GRE, your official scores will be automatically submitted electronically from the testing service if you have listed the University of Arizona as a recipient of your scores.  You may upload scanned copies of your results here for the purpose of evaluation but only as an added component of your application.  The GRE is now OPTIONAL.


International students must also take the TEOFL.  See International Students section for more information on international student requirements.


The University Code is 4832 for GRE and TOEFL scores.  You do not need a more specific code as the scores are entered into a central system.


Optional documents that you can upload into the application in include unofficial transcripts and TOEFL score reports, and your resume. (this can be uploaded into the transcripts section if the question is not specified).



Official transcripts must be sent to the graduate coordinator:

Graduate Coordinator

School of Natural Resources and the Environment

1064 E Lowell

The University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85719



SNRE Admissions Survival Guide


Entrance Requirements for Water, Society and Policy Students

Currently there are no prerequisite coursework requirements for WSP students.  Some individual courses in the core have prerequisites such as economics, physics, or calculus, but there is sufficient breadth in the core curriculum that if you haven’t already taken these prerequisites, other courses are available to fulfill the program requirements.





MS in Water, Society, and Policy
We accept applications at any time for Fall and Spring admission.  Applicants are encouraged to apply at least 2 months prior to the semester in which they would like to enroll.  International Students should apply at least 4 months in advance of the semester in which they wish to enroll.

SNRE Policies

Checklist for Incoming Students

Graduate Student Handbook

Satisfactory Progress Policy



UA GradPath Forms (Plan of Study, Committee Appointment, and other Graduate College forms)

Other Graduate College forms

Annual Committee Meeting Forms


Annual Report Form MS due April 15th each year


SNRE Internal Graduate Petition for Grievences

Masters/Specialist Completion of Degree Requirements Form (CDR)







Responsible Conduct of Research
If you work with humans as part of your research (surveys, interviews, etc.), you will need to get Human Subjects approval to conduct your research. Click here for a brief overview and be sure to visit the Human Subjects website.




Contact the graduate coordinator:


Shannon Scott

Graduate Coordinator/ Academic Advisor  (email is preferred)



Shannon can help with:

• Questions about the program and the application process
• Changing the term to which you are applying (if you have already submitted your application)
                                                         • Deferring your accepted application to another semester


For problems with the online application, contact Graduate Admissions at 520-621-3471