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NOAA to construct National Water Center to improve river and flood forecasting

 TUSCALOOSA, ALA. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a contract to Triune-Beck, Joint Venture V of Dallas to build the new NOAA National Water Center on the campus of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. The center will integrate and combine the capabilities of multiple federal water partners to expand and improve river and flood forecasting, enhance water resource management, accelerate the application of research to real-world uses, and provide a single portal for water resources information.

The $18.9 million award to construct the center will create a first-of-its-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.

“Water resource issues are complex, multi-disciplinary, and growing, as we’ve seen with this year’s floods in the Northeast and the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio rivers and the prolonged drought across much of the South,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “The necessary expertise and capabilities to address these cross-boundary issues rarely reside within one agency or organization. There is an increasing need for close partnerships among federal agencies and local, state, and regional entities; the National Water Center provides a focal point to address this national need.”

The center will help achieve the strategy of the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS) — a federal partnership of agencies, including NOAA, with complementary missions in water science, observation, prediction, and management who are committed to addressing the nation’s water resources information and management needs. NOAA anticipates the center will facilitate a strong collaborative relationship with the University of Alabama and other universities.

Among other functions, the center will include a water resources forecasting operations center, an applied water resources research and development laboratory, a geo-intelligence laboratory, and a distance learning center. The facility will reflect sustainable design principles and meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

The center is part of NOAA’s commitment to creating a Weather-Ready Nation, in which the country is able to prepare for and respond to environmental events that affect safety, health, the environment, economy, and homeland security. The center will be a cornerstone of this effort by providing emergency managers with detailed maps that explicitly show forecasted locations and effects of flooding, so they can direct their evacuation and mitigation measures more effectively. New forecasts of water supply and availability will help decision-makers plan for uncertain water futures, make more effective decisions, build more resilient communities, and create new business opportunities.