The University of Alabama has been awarded a record-breaking $360 million in federal funds to advance research efforts at the Alabama Water Institute, the school announced Wednesday afternoon.

The award, granted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the largest external funding ever received by the Capstone.

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The exorbitant grant will see UA create the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology, a group of 28 academic institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies who will partner to "develop and deliver national hydrological analyses, forecast information, data, guidance and equitable decision-support services to inform essential emergency management and water resources decisions," according to a press release from the University.

The goal of CIROH, explained in a video linked below, is to accelerate efforts to progress the research done at the Water Institute into practical application and better predict floods and droughts and improve the quality of the water upon which our society depends.

"$360 million is a lot of money," said Scott Rayder, the Executive Director at AWI. "I'm grateful that NOAA has entrusted us with the responsibility to deliver the research that they need to make their operations better."

The award is largely due to efforts by Alabama's Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who has a career-long reputation for bring unrivaled amounts of federal dollars back to the Yellowhammer State.

“I am thrilled that The University of Alabama has received this competitive award to facilitate a cutting-edge Cooperative Institute focused on hydrology,” Shelby said in a release. “UA has the unique environment and expertise to lead the nation in high-level water research between 28 partners. Thanks to the Alabama Water Institute’s leadership in assembling a world-class team, the growing scientific expertise and collaborations in Alabama will continue to benefit the nation. Additionally, NOAA’s efforts to create this innovative institute will, in turn, protect communities and promote wise investments across the nation through better water models, forecasts and predictions. This award is excellent news for Alabama and its findings will influence decisions made across the continent for years to come.”

Reactions from campus leaders to the unprecedented funding this award provides were predictably positive.

“The addition of the Cooperative Institute to The University of Alabama’s campus bolsters UA’s position at the epicenter of water research and operations,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John. “The opportunity to earn this competitive grant and lead the nation in this transformative work providing exceptional educational opportunities for our students would not be possible without Sen. Richard Shelby’s support to bring the National Water Center and U.S. Geological Survey partners to our campus.”

UA said CIROH will work with NOAA's National Water Center and the recently announced U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility, both of which will be housed on UA's campus in Tuscaloosa, to maximize collaboration between AWI scientists.

“The research institutes were established on campus to support and expand upon the great work done by our faculty, staff and students in addressing real challenges facing our society,” UA President Stuart R. Bell said. “This award will elevate those contributions, bringing innovation to such a critical issue as water quality and availability while enriching the educational experience of our students. The expertise of the Alabama Water Institute is positioned well to answer our nation’s call to improve the lives and livelihood of Americans and our partner nations.”

Dr. Russell Mumper, UA's vice president for research and economic development, echoed those sentiments and said the Capstone is earning an international reputation as an elite research institute.

“The University of Alabama is at the forefront of hydrological research,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “Tuscaloosa is now a hub of innovation for putting intelligence related to water resources into action. We are grateful for the trust placed upon the University to lead this national center of excellence.”

The announcement also named Dr. Steven Burian, the director of science at AWI, as the executive director at CIROH.

“We now begin the real work of coproducing research with NOAA and other partners that will benefit society and provide learning opportunities for students for years to come,” said Burian. “The research innovations delivered by the Cooperative Institute will improve forecasts of floods and droughts, increase efficiency of water resources management, protect water quality and empower stakeholders to make confident and timely decisions.”

CIROH's 28 members and partners include Universities and research centers from all over the United States.

Read more about the award and the future for CIROH and AWI directly from the University here. 

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