Breaking ground on water resource management

Date Posted: Febuary 21, 2012

Construction began today for NOAA’s National Water Center on The University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, which will strengthen the nation’s water forecast capabilities when completed in mid-2013.

NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., was joined by Senator Richard Shelby, UA President Robert E. Witt and USGS Associate Director for Water William Werkheiser, for the groundbreaking of the new 60,000-square-foot “green” building. In addition to NOAA employees, the National Water Center will house staff from other federal agencies involved in water services, including the USGS, when the building is completed in mid-2013.

“The research conducted at the National Water Center at the University of Alabama will be critical to gaining an increased understanding of our vital water resources,” said Senator Shelby. “This center will allow us as a nation to better predict and manage various water-related ecological problems while fostering nationwide collaboration on water issues.”

The necessary expertise and capabilities to address increasingly complex, multi-disciplinary water resource issues reside in more than 20 federal agencies and academia. The growing need and demand for better and timely water forecast information and services requires close partnerships among federal “water” agencies, because each brings a unique set of complementary tools and information to the table. The National Water Center will facilitate the strong collaboration needed to best solve the nation’s water challenges and serve the American people.

“Farmers, municipal water managers, and the Army Corps all make vital economic and public safety decisions based on timely and reliable water information,” Sullivan said. “This new center will strengthen our forecasting capabilities for floods, droughts, and water quality and enhance interagency collaboration in support of decision makers.”

The National Water Center will be the first-ever U.S. center for water forecast operations, research and collaboration across federal agencies. The new collaborative water program carried out in the building will enable the National Weather Service, in partnership with other federal agencies, to provide emergency managers and the public with detailed maps that explicitly show forecasted locations and effects of flooding for faster and more effective evacuations. It will also support the development of new forecasts for water supply and availability, thereby helping communities become more resilient to floods. The center will deliver a new generation of information and services to mitigate water-related disasters, inform routine decision-making about water, and address competing demands for increasingly limited water availability.

"Water resources present our society with some of its biggest challenges," Witt said. "The National Water Center that will be built on the UA campus will assist in meeting those challenges while providing a mutually beneficial research relationship between faculty and students from UA and other institutions and the experts with NOAA and other federal water experts."

The National Water Center – part of NOAA’s commitment to create a Weather-Ready Nation – will build upon the National Weather Service’s robust water forecast network comprised of 122 local Weather Forecast Offices that are supported by the agency’s 13 regional River Forecast Centers and national forecast offices including the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center and Climate Prediction Center.