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Future of NOAA and Water Workshop highlights challenges, tools

By: Karen Bareford / Published: Aug 16,  2018

Have you ever thought about the future of water resources globally? There’s no question that water crises, such as floods and droughts, are increasing at a staggering rate, changing our world and transforming the way we think about and plan for water issues.

On August 7, 30 NOAA employees and key partners met at the NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center to learn about what NOAA is doing to better address current and future water issues through the NOAA Water Initiative (NWI).

As a cross-agency initiative designed “to transform water information service delivery to better meet and support evolving societal need” (according to the NOAA Water Initiative Vision and Five-Year Plan), the NWI envisions “a Nation in which everyone from individual citizens to businesses and public officials has timely, actionable information about their vital water resources at their fingertips.” This information in the hands of decision-makers can then be factored wisely into their decisions about water risks, use, management, planning and security.

The workshop included an overview of the breadth of water-related challenges currently faced in the United States and the need for NOAA line offices, and other agencies, to work together to find ways to address these issues. The realization of this need to work collaboratively is the foundation that lead to the development of the NWI. The workshop also included a brief introduction to the National Water Center, located on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the National Water Model, a tool underdevelopment which will eventually provide data for the entire water budget of the continental United States.

The National Water model is a continental scale hydrologic model that forecasts streamflow and other elements of the water budget at over 2.7 million river and stream stretches.
The National Water model is a continental scale hydrologic model that forecasts streamflow and other elements of the water budget at over 2.7 million river and stream stretches.

Audra Luscher, from NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) provided a summary of the objectives of the NWI, how the objectives are being implemented and upcoming milestones. This was the first opportunity many of the field staff have had to learn about the NWI, how the line offices are involved, and what kinds of activities are being conducted.

The NWI efforts were linked back to the National Water Extension Program (NWEP), hosted by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant. The goal of the NWEP is to transform how we think about and plan for water and water events in the future. The NWI is an important element in realizing this goal.

Brenna Sweetman, a social scientist from the Office for Coastal Management (OCM), also provided information about OCM’s work engaging partners and assessing needs related to water information and how these efforts are informing the development and enhancement of decision support tools.

The session culminated in a Tools Café where participants learned about existing water-level data tools that are available in the Gulf region. Although there is an abundance of tools out there, six top tools were highlighted:

Mymobilebay.com

Inundation Dashboard

Operational Forecast System

Freshwater Inflows

NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer

Water Level Reporter Application

This workshop provided a brief introduction to the NWI and innovative, new efforts across NOAA. Although the final answer on how to solve the world’s future water issues was not addressed, participants learned more information on the steps NOAA is taking. Overall the information was well-received, and there was a resounding desire to learn more and engage with the NWI efforts in the future.

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