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University of Iowa launches new national flood prediction center
Iowa Flood Center still needs state support, director says
IOWA CITY -- The University of Iowa is launching a new center focused on national flood prediction that will be funded with $21 million in federal money.
The Center for Hydrologic Development, in the UI College of Engineering, is part of a new national consortium to improve flood prediction and water quality tracking across the country.
The Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology, led by the University of Alabama and involving more than a dozen research universities, is funded with $360 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The UI’s share is $21 million over five years, with a likelihood of extension.
The UI wanted to create a new center rather than piggybacking on the Iowa Flood Center to make clear the national funding is for national research and development, said Larry Weber, an engineering professor and director of the new center.
“We didn’t want there to be any confusion among Iowa legislators that work with the Center for Hydrologic Development was going to replace the need for funding the Iowa Flood Center,” Weber said.
The Flood Center, created in 2009 after widespread Eastern Iowa flooding in 2008, “is focused on the citizens of Iowa,” Weber said. “The funding for the Center for Hydrologic Development will not support those activities.”
The Iowa Legislature in 2017 considered cutting funding to the Flood Center, but city and county leaders spoke up about the benefits of having localized flood maps to guide infrastructure development and to prepare for future emergencies.
Some UI researchers may do work for both centers, Weber said. The programs also will share administration, outreach and physical space in the C. Maxwell Stanley Hydraulics Lab on the banks of the Iowa River in Iowa City.
“It helps us build more depth on our bench and increase the pipeline of students who could become members of the Flood Center or work for different flood related programs,” Weber said.
Below are some of the ways UI researchers will support the national consortium, the UI reported in April:
- Developing and operating real-time, streamflow forecast models
- Developing and managing large sets of flood inundation maps
- Sharing expertise in flood monitoring, based on the Flood Center’s network of more than 260 stream-monitoring sensors placed in Iowa
- Designing and operating a network of rainfall and soil moisture observations, as well as contributing expertise in radar-remote sensing of rainfall
The UI will formally announce the new research center at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Stanley Lab. Remarks will be made by Weber, Steven Burian, executive director of the cooperative and the Alabama Water Institute’s director of science, and Witold Krajewski, a UI engineering professor and director of the Iowa Flood Center.
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