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New Grant Strengthens Work to Solve Rural Wastewater Challenge
Graduate students collect water from Big Prairie Creek
A wastewater treatment project for Alabama’s Black Belt region has received $4.85 million in new federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The grant will help establish a technical assistance and training program and develop construction-ready plans for innovative rural wastewater treatment solutions. The University of Alabama will receive approximately $1.5 million to support research efforts by Dr. Mark Elliott and his students to address challenges of untreated wastewater in the Black Belt. The project was first announced in 2020 with a grant from Columbia World Projects.
The USDA’s Rural Water Consortium Award was granted to The Consortium for Alabama Rural Water and Wastewater Management, which is spearheaded by the University of South Alabama in partnership with The University of Alabama, Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Read more about the new grant and the project

New UA Stormwater Detention Basin to Ease Flooding and Provide Research Opportunities

Tim Leopard shows Scott Rayder the detention basin fan room
A new stormwater detention basin on The University of Alabama campus will greatly reduce the amount of flooding and standing water near Bryant-Denny Stadium and the South Campus Residential area. The underground basin holds 3 million gallons of water and helps alleviate traffic congestion after heavy rain events.

The $7.7 million basin will also serve as a place where UA water researchers can learn how to resolve real-world problems using remote sensing, geohydrology and hydrologic modeling.

The concept for the basin was named one of the top eight stormwater solution designs during the 2017 EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge.

Read more about the basin’s impact on UA’s campus and research efforts
Dr. Cory Armstrong headshot

UA Researcher Awarded Grant for Severe Weather Public Communication Study

The University of Alabama’s Dr. Cory Armstrong has received a $15,000 grant from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to help the National Weather Service determine the most effective way to warn the public about tornadic-related weather events.

Armstrong, the department chair and professor in UA’s Department of Journalism and Creative Media, is working with the NWS office in Memphis to survey people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. The survey will determine how people react to graphical and textual warnings and alerts. The results will help the NWS shape its messaging to better warn the public of severe weather.

Read more about Armstrong’s grant and survey process
Hear Armstrong discuss her grant in-depth on the AWI Podcast
Surveyor taking picture of rock layers

Earth’s Position and Orbit Spurred Ancient Marine Life Extinction

A new study by researchers at The University of Alabama has revealed that the mass extinction of ancient marine life some 370 million years ago was the result of oceanic dead zones controlled by the Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun.

UA scientists studied rocks from Tennessee and discovered the link between the event and what is known as “astronomical forcing.” The rocks show when the mass extinction occurred and are a clue to how modern dead zones can alter marine ecosystems.

Read more about the research

Around Alabama ...

Shelby's Exit Could Upend Southeast Water War

Senator Shelby takes questions from reporters
Alabama U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is retiring in 2022, and his departure could signal a vocal shift in the decades long “Tri-State Water War” between Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

For more than 30 years, Alabama and Georgia have been in legal battles over water usage from the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin, and all three states are at odds over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

Shelby has been a powerful advocate for his home state when it comes to water allocation, and his past public comments have indicated a desire for the states to be given the ability to resolve water management issues themselves.

Read more about Shelby’s involvement in the Southeast water disputes

U.S. Water News

Water Utility Hack Poses Power Grid Warning

photo of water treatment facility
A small Florida town’s water treatment facility was the victim of a cyberattack in February, prompting federal investigations.

A hacker was able to get into the Oldsmar, Florida, utility control network and attempted to poison the town’s water supply. An operator noticed the hack as it was happening and was able to stop dangerous levels of sodium hydroxide from reaching the supply.

Cybersecurity experts believe more attacks on municipal utilities are possible due to insufficient security standards and tight budgets.

Read more about the cyberattack threats

Mississippi River Cities Join Project to Map Plastic Litter

photo of researchers investigating body of water
A new project involving “citizen scientists” along the Mississippi River is using GPS and mobile apps to help determine the source of plastic in waterways and how it ends up there.

The data will be added to a virtual map that can provide information on problem areas to policymakers and experts. The Mississippi River is responsible for 40% of the continental U.S. water flow into the Gulf of Mexico, which includes a vast amount of plastic debris from municipal storm drains and tributary streams.

Read more about the project

California Faces Dangerously Dry Year

Below average winter precipitation in California likely means a critically dry year lies ahead. The state has been dealing with increased wildfires and drought, and runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack has been less than normal. Officials from the state Department of Water Resources also estimate that reservoirs are storing between 38% and 68% of their capacity.

California is vulnerable to drought due in part to most of its water coming from a low number of precipitation events. Roughly three to five winter storms account for the snowpack and reservoir levels, and those events have not been as impactful over the past few months.

Read more about California’s water concerns

Invasive Zebra Mussels Found in Pet Stores

Wildlife agencies in several states have discovered invasive zebra mussels living in moss balls, a popular aquarium product sold in pet stores.

The small mussels quickly breed and can cause many issues for natural waterways. According to the USGS, they eat algae that native species need to live, as well as clog drinking water systems, storm drains, dams and irrigation systems.

Read more about the invasive mollusks
Podcast Art

AWI Podcasts Highlight
Water Research Faculty and Efforts

The Alabama Water Institute created the AWI Podcast as a way to introduce our affiliated faculty members and students, to help showcase their work and to show how their research is helping to improve every aspect of water across all walks of life.
There are one-on-one interviews with our researchers, but also some of their public talks at workshops and conferences. Topics have included hurricanes and coastal response, wastewater management, helping citizens in rural areas gain access to clean water, chemical effects on fish behavior and telling the history of streamflow before written records.

New interviews are added often and can be accessed by searching for “Alabama Water Institute” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Stitcher. Each episode is also available at
AWI Twitter
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AWI LinkedIn
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AWI YouTube channel
AWI Website
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