University of Alabama Selected to Lead Inland Water Research Efforts

In being chosen to lead water resources information efforts in North America, the University of Alabama received the largest external financial award in its 201-year history.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday named the AU as the recipient of a $360 million grant to form the Cooperative Institute for Research in Operations in Hydrology, or CIROH.

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According to NOAA, the goal of this new research institute will be to improve NOAA’s ability to provide usable water resources information to improve forecasts, watches, warnings and other related services to protect the life and property while strengthening the national economy.

“The new cooperative institute will work with NOAA to research and develop cutting-edge analysis, forecasting and advice on water and the equitable delivery of decision support services,” said the NOAA Administrator, Rick Spinrad, in a press release announcing the award. “This program will train the next generation of scientists focused on solving water problems and emergencies on all timescales, helping NOAA build a nation that is climate-ready, responsive, and resilient in a changing world.”

The goal of the Cooperative Hydrology Operations Research Institute will be to improve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ability to provide usable water resources information to improve forecasts, , warnings and other related services designed to protect life and property while strengthening the economy.

A UA-led consortium will contribute to NOAA’s vision of a nation ready for water and weather by advancing water research in support of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction and by strengthening the work of the National Weather Service and the National Water Center through collaboration among the scientific community in four major research themes:

• Water resources forecasting capabilities

• Modeling of community water resources

• Hydroinformatics

• Application of social, economic and behavioral sciences to water resources forecasting

A team led by Scott Rayder, executive director of the Alabama Water Institute housed on the University of Alabama campus, and Steven J. Burian, the current scientific director of the institute who will now serve as executive director of CIROH , has been working for months. to get the competitive price and lead the project.

Scott Rayder is the executive director of the Alabama Water Institute.

“We are now beginning the real work of co-producing research with NOAA and other partners that will benefit society and provide learning opportunities for students for years to come, said Burian, who is also a professor of engineering. civil, construction, and environmental at UA’s College. of Engineering. “The research innovations provided by (CIROH) will improve flood and drought predictions, increase the efficiency of water resource management, protect water quality and empower stakeholders to make decisions confidently and in a timely manner.”

Burian said work to train the CIROH team of hundreds of scientists at a range of academic and research institutions was underway, but the announcement of being chosen by NOAA means those efforts will begin to pick up. scale up over the next two to three months to get the team up and running with various proposals and task orders.

“Such a big effort, we had to expect and anticipate,” Burian said.

Based within the Alabama Water Institute, CIROH will be comprised of a consortium of hydrology researchers from 28 academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private industry across the United States. and Canada.

Together, they will develop and deliver national hydrological analyses, forecasting information, data, advice and equitable decision support services to inform critical emergency and water resources management decisions.

While the focus of the work is being led by Burian, Rayder and the Alabama Water Institute will compile the various task orders, documentation, and paperwork needed for NOAA to begin funding the effort, which is expected to begin with an allocation of $15 million by September 30, end of fiscal year 2022.

“We want to go as fast as possible,” Rayder said. “We did our homework and we were very diligent. …

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“I am proud to spearhead this unprecedented cooperative institute, which will not only create a consortium of institutions that will leverage their individual prowess to solve today’s most pressing water issues, but will also advance the AU in its status as an emerging and leading water research institution.”

Total funding will be spread over a five-year period, and beyond research, CIROH will create curricula to educate and position students at the University of Alabama, as well as those at institutions members of CIROH, to be the next generation of water specialists. professionals.

Local and national workforce training programs will translate CIROH advances into practice, and outreach and engagement will connect CIROH to stakeholders helping communities build resilience to related risks. in the water, AU officials said.

“The University of Alabama is at the forefront of hydrological research,” said Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “Tuscaloosa is now an innovation hub for putting water resource intelligence into action.

“We are grateful for the trust placed in the university to lead this national center of excellence.”

Contact Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com.

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