On Tuesday, May 26, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opened a truly one-of-a-kind facility at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
According to WBRC, the new National Water Center — a facility that will handle water forecasts, research and other water-related work — is the first such center in the country. The government-run, 65,000-square-foot facility will also be home to collaborative efforts between federal water science and management agencies.
“There are 24 federal agencies that work on water as a scientific discipline, and this center will bring all of the work of those agencies together,” National Water Center Deputy Director Don Cline explained.
A number of key policy-makers and government officials attended the National Water Center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, NOAA Administrator Doctor Kathryn Sullivan, FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich and others were present at the event.
“The new National Water Center will help us create a safer, more secure, weather-ready nation,” Pritzker said at the ceremony. “Measuring, managing, and planning for water is complex, and the need for a more integrated approach has never been greater. Through this center, we will work with our partners in the federal government, community leaders nationwide, and the University of Alabama to deliver solutions to one of our most pressing environmental challenges.”
Nimmich also heavily stressed the importance of a facility like the National Water Center, saying that 80% of natural disasters in the U.S. are water-related. In the wake of deadly flash flooding hitting much of Northern Texas, the need for advanced water forecasting is especially apparent.
The National Water Center will also be a hub of sustainability efforts. Out of the entire global water supply, a mere 2.5% is fresh water; only a third of that is actually available for human use. U.S. households are notorious water-wasters, with the average home wasting anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 gallons per year due to leaks. University of Alabama researchers will work with the facility’s researchers to solve complex water sustainability issues much like the current extended drought hitting California.
While there are 45 full-time personnel currently working at the National Water Center, WBRC reports that it could employ as many as 200 people someday. With a number of complex, intricate water-related issues currently plaguing the U.S., this facility’s opening is a very welcome step forward toward solving these problems.