NOAA to build water center


Ashanka Kumari

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration will build a new national water center on the campus of the University of Alabama, according to a press release. The NOAA awarded a contract to Triune-Beck, Joint Venture V of Dallas to build the center.

The $18,881,500 award will create a one of a kind facility that will combine hydrological forecasting operations and research under one roof to support field operations, improve joint agency coordination and address emerging stakeholder needs, the press release stated.

The Water Center will be a national facility that will serve the entire nation, said Vice President for Research and Vice Provost Joe Benson.

“The facility will take advantage of the research expertise in water and water resources that exist in the universities within the state and will provide the nation with a seamless suite of consistent water resource monitoring and forecasting information,” Benson said. “The Center will make Tuscaloosa a focal point for water science in the nation.”

The project has been in development stages for several years. Construction is slated to start either later this year or early in 2012, with a completion date of 2014, Benson said.

Water resources are considered to be one of the most significant challenges facing societies and governments in the 21st century, according to a document submitted by Benson. Managers and decision-makers in water resource divisions need new and more integrated information and services to prepare for uncertainty, climate and land-use change and increasing demand on limited resources.

The Integrated Water Resources Science and Services consortium (IWRSS) was created by NOAA to help unite water science observation, prediction and management missions and uniquely assemble the main capabilities to meet these objectives, according to the document.

“The Center is part of the vision of NOAA’s IWRSS initiative which is designed to bring together various federal agencies that have complimentary missions related to water science,” Benson said.

The Center is part of NOAA’s commitment to creating a weather-ready nation, in which the country will be able to prepare for and respond to environmental events that affect safety, health, the environment, economy and homeland security, according to a press release.

NOAA is located within the U.S. Department of Commerce and includes the National Weather Service, National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Science and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Benson said.

“The presence of the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa will allow UA faculty and students to work with federal scientists to address issues of mutual interest,” Benson said. “These could include both the scientific and socio-economic aspects of issues such as flood forecasting, water quality, water availability, etc. From the standpoint of the community, the Center, when fully staffed, will bring up to 200 professionals to Tuscaloosa, which will have a positive impact on the local economy.”