TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama is partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey to construct a new Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility, a state-of-the-art science and engineering facility, that will support the agency’s Water Enterprise observing networks and research.
“I am pleased that the U.S. Geological Survey has chosen to relocate its Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility to The University of Alabama, a leading innovator in the field of water research and science. This new facility will expand on the Alabama Water Institute’s critical mission of furthering the study of water as a weather-related threat, as a resource, and for distribution. I look forward to the transformative discoveries that will come from this new partnership, as well as the economic benefit it will bring to Alabama,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
U.S. Congress appropriated $38.5 million to replace the current aging USGS facilities located at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, with the requirement to collocate with complementary academic and federal partners.
“We extend our sincere appreciation to Sen. Shelby, who played an integral role throughout this process and helped ensure the University could expand its water research program as global demand increases,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John. “With the Alabama Water Institute, the Global Water Security Center, and now the USGS-HIF, The University of Alabama has cemented its position as the nation’s leader in this critical area.”
UA was selected as the site of the new HIF for the opportunities it provides to dovetail with other water-related research and development already conducted on campus, including the NOAA National Water Center. The HIF, which will be built on the north side of campus near the Black Warrior River, will serve a fundamental role at USGS in providing instrumentation and equipment services to USGS Science Centers and external partners.
“With the addition of the USGS-HIF to Tuscaloosa, our campus will serve as the epicenter for water research and operations in the United States,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “This mission-driven partnership will provide countless teaching, research and service opportunities for our students and faculty.”
The new USGS-HIF is expected to increase economic development in the region. USGS anticipates the facility will also support and encourage strong collaboration with other federal agencies located on campus.
The 95,000-square-foot, two-story facility will include a hydraulics lab, water quality labs, field testing facilities, environmental chambers, sensor innovation space, warehouse, training labs, network operations center and administrative offices. Construction is expected to begin in late 2022, and the USGS plans to take occupancy in 2023.
“This partnership will ensure a world-class USGS facility for the testing and development of cutting-edge USGS hydrologic instrumentation, which provides the backbone for our near-real-time water monitoring and other research,” said Don Cline, associate director for the USGS Water Mission Area. “This information enriches the lives of everyday Americans and is used nationwide by all types of end-users, from water managers to recreational boaters, to make critical decisions.”
Water is a signature research and academic focus at UA.
The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees recently approved the creation of the Global Water Security Center, which will be part of the Alabama Water Institute and provide national decision-makers with strategic information, groundbreaking research, applied scientific techniques and transformative best practices to inform appropriate action regarding water distribution. Mike Gremillion, an experienced weather professional in the military and intelligence communities, will lead the Global Water Security Center while continuing as deputy director of the AWI.
The AWI, led by executive director Scott Rayder, serves as a world-class interdisciplinary water research institute that develops pathbreaking, holistic and environmentally friendly solutions to ensure people and ecological systems in our community, state, nation and world are water secure, with access to clean water and are resilient to extreme events. Rayder has played a key role in continuing collaboration with the NOAA National Water Center on UA’s campus.
“As global demand for water increases alongside a predicted decrease in water quality and availability, The University of Alabama is taking a leadership role to ensure the nation can better understand water security and predict how changes will impact the geopolitical sphere,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “We are pleased to welcome USGS to Tuscaloosa and stand ready to support USGS and NWC in their missions.”
UA’s comprehensive water research program emboldens UA’s strategic goal of increasing productivity and innovation in research, learning and creative activities that impact economic and societal development.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.