Courtesy of Bernie Bullert

Water visionary
CSE grad Bernie Bullert’s legacy of leadership and philanthropy is helping transform water management in Minnesota

Bernie Bullert has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to the study and management of water resources in Minnesota. A renowned leader in the water engineering field, Bullert is passionate about finding solutions to our most pressing water-quality issues. 

This commitment to continuous improvement is what inspired him to create the Minnesota Water Research Fund at the University of Minnesota in 2015, which he funded with current and estate gifts. Providing research support for faculty and students in the College of Science and Engineering’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, the fund also helps train the engineers and scientists who will lead tomorrow’s water management and treatment industries. 

Leading up to this transformational gift was a career focused on research and public service, and an enduring commitment to creating positive change in Minnesota and beyond. 

Public service 

After graduating from the U in 1968 with a degree in civil engineering, Bullert started his career at Saint Paul Regional Water Services, where he worked for 35 years, with 12 years as general manager.

Not content to maintain the status quo, Bullert used his leadership position to investigate a variety of water quality issues—such as taste and odor complaints—that had plagued the city for years.

He hired a team of U of M researchers to dig into the problems; their proposed solution (the implementation of carbon filters) played a central role in improving the city’s water quality and underscored the importance of ongoing research.  

“I’ve always been change-oriented,” he says. “There’s almost always a better way to make a difference, to improve quality, and to make things more efficient.” 

Giving back  

Although Bullert has retired, he is still deeply involved in water research and advocacy—particularly through the Minnesota Water Research Fund. 

Through Bullert’s generosity, the fund has sponsored research projects focused on a wide range of topics, from stormwater contaminants to water-efficient farming. His commitment extends beyond support for individual projects, however. Bullert’s long-term goal is to endow a chair that will support U of M faculty who are international leaders in water research.  

Bullert has a particular interest in work that benefits the drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems of greater Minnesota. He points out that Minnesota has about 900 water systems—most of them serving small communities across the state and lacking the resources needed to conduct research and make improvements. 

“We need research to help the smaller communities that can’t afford to advance their systems,” he says. “[The fund is intended to support projects that] are going to do the most good for the citizens of Minnesota.”

Support the Minnesota Water Research Fund.



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