Addressing the Nation's Water Information Needs through Interagency Collaboration: Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS) and the National Water Center (NWC)

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Jerad Bales, USGS, Reston, VA; and D. Cline, S. P. Contorno, T. Graziano, M. G. Mullusky, A. Rost, and T. Schneider

Water is a critical component in the success of any economic endeavor and is the lifeblood of our planet, yet water resources are considered to be one of the greatest challenges facing our Nation in the 21st century. Water resources issues are complex, multidisciplinary and growing. In the U.S. and globally, we face a triple threat: population growth and economic development are increasing competition for limited resources, stressing water supplies and heightening vulnerability; a changing climate is impacting water availability and quality, increasing uncertainty and the frequency of extreme events, and posing adaptation challenges; and an aging water infrastructure is forcing critical, expensive decisions.

In light of these escalating socioeconomic impacts and challenges, managers and decision-makers in all sectors of water resources require more integrated and enhanced information and services to develop strategies which improve water security and quality, mitigate the impacts of extreme events, and build community resiliency. Consistent, well-integrated, and reliable water resources information and predictions are needed to inform decision-making. These requirements have been documented via several stakeholders' needs assessments, commissioned independent studies, and post-disaster service assessments.

To meet the growing demand for enhanced water resources information, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS,) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have formed a new partnership called the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS). IWRSS is an innovative partnership of federal agencies with complementary operational missions in water science, observation, prediction and management. IWRSS serves as a new business model for interagency collaboration to facilitate expanded and routine sharing of technology, science, models, information, and best practices to more effectively leverage each agency's investment in water resources services. It applies a crosscutting, multi-disciplinary, systems approach to addressing complex water problems collaboratively.

This endeavor has technical, scientific and human dimensions, and all three must be integrated to achieve IWRSS objectives. IWRSS partner agencies understand that enhanced partnerships are necessary to accelerate the transition of research to operations to support water forecasting, improve the coordination and synchronization of information, capabilities, and resources, and deliver expanded and more integrated water resources services. All three agencies have critical interdependencies, each relying on information and services from the others to execute their missions. Under the auspices of IWRSS, the agencies have stepped up inter-agency coordination and collaboration, and are initially focusing on the following key activities:

• System interoperability and data synchronization to expand and enable more timely communication of water information necessary to achieve a common operating picture;

• Coordinated flood inundation mapping to show the forecasted spatial extent and depth of flooding to enable emergency managers and other decision makers to pre-position people and resources to more effectively mitigate the impacts of floods and build more resilient communities; and

• Water modeling to develop a joint operational water resources forecasting system to produce new “Summit-to-Sea” high-resolution analyses and forecasts of water resource variables and quantify forecast uncertainty to help decision makers manage the increasingly limited fresh water supply and better mitigate the impacts of floods and droughts.

• Enhanced stakeholder interactions and communications to emphasize participatory processes which inform the design and development of new IWRSS capabilities and facilitate integrative and adaptive water resources management.

The National Water Center (NWC) in Tuscaloosa, AL is intended to be a catalyst to achieve IWRSS objectives and serves as a physical home for IWRSS activities; it is designed to become one of our and a principal mechanisms to address the Nation's growing challenges and information needs. The first facility of its kind in the world, the NWC is designed to modernize operational water resources analysis and forecasting by providing a central hub to efficiently manage the flow of water information, operating water models in a high-performance computing environment, and producing a unique, comprehensive suite of new water resources information products and services to form the basis of a national water resources information system. The NWC will facilitate the modernization of the end-to-end hydrologic forecast process by: a) redefining and coordinating water forecast operations through provision of centralized data and state-of-the-art water resources modeling services, b) producing well-integrated information products for enhanced decision support services across several sectors including agriculture, hydropower, municipal water supply, recreation, and river commerce, c) providing a critical mass of top-quality scientists to accelerate infusion of state-of-the-science research into hydrological forecasting operations, d) providing scientific innovation, and e) providing efficient and effective training and retraining mechanisms. It is envisioned the NWC will become the nerve center for the Nation's water resources enterprise, working in concert with local and regional field units to produce and provide analyses and forecasts necessary to inform and enable routine high-value and high-impact decision-making across a broad range of water-management and emergency-management sectors.

The IWRSS consortium was officially established in May 2011 and has since adopted governance and oversight procedures; formed several inter-agency teams; and has engaged in regional stakeholder outreach. The NWC is planned to be open for business early in calendar year 2014, when activities there will begin to ramp up. This talk will provide an update on IWRSS activities and plans and on the status of the NWC.