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University of Iowa News Release


April 2, 2009

UI watershed project joins United Nations international basin program

A University of Iowa watershed study project has been accepted for inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP) program as a demonstration basin for the adoption of advanced information system technology.

The advanced technology that will be used in the project currently is being developed in various academic communities to better understand human-natural system interactions and to support integrated and sustainable water resources management.

Acceptance of the UI project, called the Iowa-Cedar River Basin, as a new HELP Basin means that the watershed project -- coordinated by the UI College of Engineering's renowned IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering research unit -- will become one of five such basins in the United States and 64 United Nations water basins worldwide.

Marian Muste, IIHR research engineer and adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering, said that the UI project will make a unique contribution to the UNESCO-HELP network, which promotes land and water resources sustainability using advanced concepts in watershed science and management.

"The proposed Iowa-Cedar River Basin is the first UNESCO-HELP basin in the Midwest," Muste said. "In the last several decades, rivers and streams in this basin have produced record floods while becoming primary contributors of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Upper Mississippi River Basin that eventually lead to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico."

He added that the UNESCO-HELP basin will foster better water resources management by bringing together decision makers interested in sustainable land and water analysis with scientists interested in improving the understanding of watershed processes and their investigative tools. In support of its goals, the UI project will involve the development of a cyberinfrastructure-based ecohydrologic observatory in the Iowa-Cedar River Basin that will enable scientific study, researcher collaboration, and coordination between university, state and federal agencies using end-to-end environmental exploration that combines data and modeling tools in an integrated environment.

"The Iowa-Cedar HELP basin is envisioned to be the blueprint for an interagency effort that can be subsequently extended using the same cyberinfrastructure-based technology to the much larger scale of the Upper Mississippi River Basin," he said.

Preliminary discussions in this regard were initiated in 2007, when Muste organized an international capacity building meeting with support provided by UI's Obermann Center and IIHR. He noted that the Iowa-Cedar Rivers Basin HELP project is timely as it takes advantage of a recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, initiative to create an Interagency Integrated Water Resources Management initiative in the Iowa and Cedar rivers watersheds.

The Corps has initiated such interagency entities in four other sub-basins of the Upper Mississippi Basin. Their role is to create interagency teams that will improve planning, management and operations in the basins and will ultimately be responsible for sustainability of the Midwest watersheds. Col. Robert Sinkler, district commander and engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, said: "We owe the people who live, work and play in the Iowa/Cedar River Basin a model long-term, interagency, integrated watershed management effort."

In addition to IIHR and the U.S. Army Corps, Rock Island District, other agencies contributing to the Iowa-Cedar HELP basin initiation include: U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa Geological Survey, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Consortium for Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences Inc., National Weather Service, and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

HELP is a framework for water law and policy experts, water resource managers, and water scientists to work together on water-related problems in a genuine, inclusive, and equitable watershed-scale collaborative process. In each watershed, scientists observe phenomena in the fields of hydrology, climate, ecology, economics and other areas with the goal of solving practical problems by linking the abundance of research carried out in a basin to the needs of mission agencies and stakeholders within that basin.

Muste, who earned his master's degree and doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the UI College of Engineering in 1993 and 1995, has served as coordinator of the college's fluids laboratory and as instructor for the "Experimental Methods in Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer" and "International Perspectives in Water Science and Management" courses. He is the coordinator of the campuswide "CyberEnviroNet," a multidisciplinary research group aimed at implementing cyberinfrastructure in integrated water resources management. He is a member of the UNESCO working Group on "Data Requirements for Urban Water Management," the World Meteorological Organization Project "Flow Measurement and Instrumentation," and the "Iowa Comprehensive Workgroup on Stormwater Management."  Since 2007, he has been a member of the Council of the International Association for Hydraulic Engineering and Research.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,