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USGS Director Reveals Vision, New Facility Plans for Collaboration with Alabama Water Institute

Photo of AWI Executive Director Scott Rayder, USGS Director Dr. Jim Reilly and UA Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Russell Mumper
During a recent visit to The University of Alabama, U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Jim Reilly touted his vision for USGS Water Resources, as well as what the future holds with its partnership with the Alabama Water Institute.
Reilly met with several members of the UA leadership and faculty members, including an online town hall in which he and USGS Associate Director for Water Resources Dr. Don Cline discussed the agency’s strategy for water.
“Water is the core solvent for any carbon lifeform, so without water we’re pretty well out of luck,” Reilly said. “It is the one agent that is going to stand atop pretty much everything we do.”
Within the next few years, the USGS will have a physical home at UA. A new Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility, or H.I.F., will be constructed close to the current location of the AWI and NOAA’s National Water Center.
Continue reading about Reilly’s visit 
Mike Gremillion headshot

Gremillion Begins Tenure as AWI Global Water Security Initiative Director

The Alabama Water Institute welcomes Michael Gremillion as director of the Global Water Security Initiative. A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, he spent more than 27 years leading national security environmental support and providing scientific expertise and leadership under the U.S. Department of Defense.

In his role at The University of Alabama, Gremillion is spearheading federal efforts to alleviate the impacts of water-related disasters. He is also working with AWI-affiliated researchers to create and improve tools and data that will help national and state policymakers to prepare against water security vulnerabilities, as well as helping to predict security issues and aid in mitigation, recovery and restoration.

AWI’s Global Water Security Initiative provides the most reliable information, groundbreaking research, applied scientific techniques and best practices so that the hydrologic cycle and all of its potential impacts on geopolitical events can be put in a context for appropriate action and response by the United States.
Read more about Gremillion in UA’s press release


Join and interact with Mike Gremillion during his virtual town hall on October 21, 2020: Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

Did You Hear?

AWI Research Center Brings National Attention to Drought Vulnerability

A paper recently published by three researchers from The University of Alabama’s Center for Complex Hydrosytems Research highlights the conditions under which states are more susceptible to drought. The study, funded by NOAA, discusses different regions’ preparedness to deal with drought and recover from it.

The Drought Vulnerability Index assigns scores using the weighted average of three indicators: exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Exposure is determined by how frequent a state is in drought, the size of its population and how freshwater ecosystems are affected. Sensitivity relates to the geography and economy of each state and how likely each is to experience negative impact. Finally, adaptive capacity indicates how each state is able to adjust to and recover from drought when it ends.

The results of the study, published at and E&E News, show that states such as Oklahoma, Montana and Iowa are not as prepared to deal with extreme drought and are the most vulnerable. Delaware, Massachusetts and Connecticut are the least vulnerable. California is also among the least vulnerable states despite having droughts over the past several years due to its well-developed adaptation measures.

The Center for Complex Hydrosystems Research falls under the umbrella of the Alabama Water Institute. It focuses on collaborative research to advance the understanding of hydrologic science through modeling climate-water-human interactions as a complex system, which will result in sustainable management.

This study was conducted by Dr. Johanna Engström, former postdoctoral researcher at the UA Center for Complex Hydrosystems Research,
Dr. Keighobad Jafarzadegan, postdoctoral researcher at the center, and
Dr. Hamid Moradkhani, the Alton N. Scott Chair Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the center.
Water cycle graphic

Researchers Concerned Terrestrial Water Cycle Becoming Too Similar

Earth is under increasing stress, with some planetary boundaries that define the “safe operating space for humanity” already being crossed. In a recent paper published in Nature Geoscience, researchers expressed concerns that planting identical trees in large areas is shrinking the range and response of water cycles.

In the efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change, some areas of the world are replacing diverse populations of plants with a single fast-growing species. While the intentions are good, scientists believe the water cycle becomes less effective and leads to environmental stresses. When native landscapes and systems are replaced with uniformed monocultures, there has been an increased likelihood of drought and floods, in addition to lower water quality. In the U.S., some homogenized areas have also been shown to increase the vulnerability of areas to groundwater nitrate contamination.

Researchers are encouraging policymakers to take these plant and water interactions into consideration when making changes to land use and land cover strategies. More information about these water cycles can be found in this article.
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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
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