The National Water Center will run state-of-the-art water management models

Tech takes on water resource challenges

The new National Water Center (NWC), the first U.S. center for water forecast operations, research and collaboration across federal agencies, is opening for business on the campus of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

The NWC will run state-of-the-art water management models in a high-performance computing environment and will efficiently manage the flow of water information to other researchers as well as to federal, state and local agencies with new data services.

The center will also deliver information and services to mitigate water-related disasters, inform routine decision-making about water and address competing demands for increasingly limited water availability, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At the same time, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced that the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science passed an appropriations bill allotting $4 million to the center for the 2015 fiscal year, according to a report in the Crimson White. NOAA Hydrology Laboratory Chief Don Cline said he is optimistic about its approval by the House of Representatives and President Obama, the publication noted.

The 65,000 square foot facility houses the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS), a partnership initially consisting of the NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Army Corps of Engineers. IWRSS is a collaborative approach to improve water resource forecasts, understand how water moves across land and rivers and integrate national water resources information. The information will be used for adaptive water-related planning, preparedness and response activities.

The NWC will have two major components, according to NOAA’s Cline. “One is what we call operations, which is running models, bringing in data from across the country and using the data and the models to evaluate water resources, water availability and hazards like floods and droughts,” he told the Crimson White. “The other main function is research and development. It supports operations.”

“This first-in-the world facility will enable NOAA and its federal water partners to introduce new data capabilities, models and decision-support tools and produce the comprehensive information needed to support next-generation adaptive water planning, preparedness and response activities,” according to the IWRSS.

Currently there are no standardized methods for exchanging information between water agencies. Instead, critical information is often passed through unreliable means such as emails and phone calls.

NOAA’s Cline said $4 million will go toward a demonstration project that will centralize data from all 13 river forecast centers and make it available as a data service; evaluate the river forecast models to improve modeling and forecasting; and centralize forecasting. The project will take a few years to develop.

The NWC facility includes a water resources forecasting operations center, an applied water resources research and development laboratory, a geo-intelligence laboratory and a distance learning center.

The center is currently hiring software (data and applications) engineers and associate scientists from entry to expert levels in areas such as hydraulics, GIS science, model verification and evaluation and hydrologic modeling.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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