May 18 2012

Living With Floods

From the Iowa Flood Center


The concept for the Iowa Flood Center is rooted in the monumental efforts that took place on the University of Iowa (UI) campus in June 2008 before, during, and after the Iowa and Cedar Rivers crested in Eastern Iowa.

In between filling sandbags and moving out of flood-endangered buildings, UI researchers began collecting time-sensitive data on many aspects of the flood — from high-resolution data to document flood water elevations and contaminated sediments deposited by flood waters. The flood helped catalyze the formation of new teams of researchers from across the University’s campus to work together on flood-related initiatives. They also sought funding from a variety of sources; in the first 12 months after the flood, the University of Iowa was awarded more than $500,000 by the National Science Foundation for flood-related research.

A central issue that emerged from this work was the realization that there was no central place in Iowa (or in the nation) for advanced research and education focused on floods. Discussion and formulation of a plan to establish an Iowa-based center for flood research and education followed. The University of Iowa was the logical home for this center, based on the institution’s experience during the flood and because it is home to IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, one of the preeminent hydraulics laboratories in the United States.

In spring 2009, the state of Iowa established (and funded) the new Iowa Flood Center (IFC). This effort was spearheaded by several Iowa senators and representatives, with much behind-the-scenes work by IIHR research engineers Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski. A total of $1,300,000 was appropriated for the center in its first year (FY2010).

The IFC is now actively engaged in flood projects in several Iowa communities and employs several graduate and undergraduate students participating in flood-related research. IFC researchers have designed a cost-efficient sensor network to better monitor stream flow in the state; have developed a library of flood-inundation maps for several Iowa communities; and are working on a large project to develop new floodplain maps for 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

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