New institute will work to improve prediction of water-related hazards

4/7/2022 8:06:53 AM

CEE researchers will participate in a multi-institution consortium funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) aimed at improving the nation’s ability to predict water-related hazards and manage water resources. The NOAA grant, announced today, will provide support of up to $360 million over the next five years to the newly established Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH), headquartered at the Alabama Water Institute at the University of Alabama (UA).

Ana Barros
Ana Barros

“We are excited to join this partnership with NOAA,” said CEE professor and head Ana Barros. “The Cooperative Institute provides a pathway for science transfer to operations and will push forward water prediction in the nation. It is very satisfying to know that our work is poised for impact and to realize the potential of UIUC’s capabilities in Hydrology and Hydrometeorology including remote-sensing, and multiscale modeling and monitoring of natural, agricultural and urban environments, including inland coasts.”

The institute consists of a consortium of 28 academic institutions, non-profit organizations and government and industry partners bringing together a powerful team of hydrologic researchers across the United States and Canada. They will develop and deliver national hydrological analyses, forecast information, data, guidance and equitable decision-support services to inform essential emergency management and water resources decisions. 

"The research institutes were established on campus to support and expand upon the great work done by our faculty, staff and students in addressing real challenges facing our society," said UA President Stuart R. Bell. "This award will elevate those contributions, bringing innovation to such a critical issue as water quality and availability while enriching the educational experience of our students. The expertise of the Alabama Water Institute is positioned well to answer our nation’s call to improve the lives and livelihood of Americans and our partner nations.” 

CIROH will work closely with two federal organizations located on campus — NOAA’s National Water Center and the recently announced U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility — allowing for highly productive collaboration between AWI and other federal agency scientists. 

The consortium led by UA assists NOAA’s vision of a water- and weather-ready nation. CIROH will advance water research in support of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction and reinforce the work of the National Weather Service and National Water Center through collaboration across the scientific community in four broad research themes: 

  • Water resources prediction capabilities. 
  • Community water resources modeling. 
  • Hydroinformatics. 
  • Application of social, economic and behavioral science to water resources prediction. 

“I am proud to be spearheading this unprecedented Cooperative Institute, which will not only create a consortium of institutions that will leverage their individual prowess to address today's most pressing water issues but also usher UA forward in its status as an emerging and leading water research institution," said Scott Rayder, AWI executive director. 

CIROH will create curriculum programs across its consortium members and partners to prepare the next generation of water professionals. Local-to-national scale workforce training programs will translate CIROH advances into practice. Extensive outreach and engagement will connect CIROH to stakeholders helping communities build resilience to water-related risks. 

Dr. Steven J. Burian, AWI director of science and professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, will serve as the executive director of CIROH. 

“We now begin the real work of coproducing research with NOAA and other partners that will benefit society and provide learning opportunities for students for years to come,” said Burian. “The research innovations delivered by the Cooperative Institute will improve forecasts of floods and droughts, increase efficiency of water resources management, protect water quality and empower stakeholders to make confident and timely decisions.” 

CIROH’s 14 consortium members include: The University of Alabama; Brigham Young University; Colorado School of Mines; Tuskegee University; The University of Alabama in Huntsville; University of Arizona; University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; University of Iowa; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Saskatchewan; University of Utah; University of Vermont; and Utah State University. 

Consortium partners include: Baron Weather Inc.; Coastal Carolina University; Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrological Science Inc.; Dauphin Island Sea Lab; Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System; Jupiter Intelligence; New Mexico State University; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; The Pennsylvania State University; RTI International; Stevens Institute of Technology; University of California, Davis; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and University of South Carolina.