Emilie Rusch

Colorado School of Mines a founding partner in nationwide water research institute

Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology is being made possible by $360M in NOAA funding
Terri Hogue and student take water reading

Hydrology researchers at Colorado School of Mines are contributing to a major cooperative research effort to improve water modeling and prediction capabilities nationwide. 

Mines is one of 14 founding university members of the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH), made possible by $360 million in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Headquartered at the University of Alabama’s Alabama Water Institute, CIROH consists of 28 academic institutions, non-profit organizations, government and industry partners from across the U.S. and Canada. Together, the goal is to develop and deliver national hydrological analyses, forecast information, data and guidance to inform emergency management and water supply decisions.

“Water supply, access and quality are among the most pressing challenges facing the world today. Researchers at Colorado School of Mines have long been dedicated to finding solutions, particularly for the unique climate and environment of the western U.S.,” said Walter G. Copan, vice president for research and technology transfer at Mines. “We’re pleased to participate in the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology and have Mines’ expertise in hydrology continue to come to the fore.”

Mines is consistently ranked as one of the top hydrology and water resources programs in the United States, and this collaboration with other leading programs in the U.S. and Canada represents a major commitment to advance understanding and management of water resources across North America.

Mines’ initial involvement in CIROH will focus on improving predictions of river temperatures, especially in areas that have been disturbed by wildfire or urbanization, said Terri Hogue, dean of earth and society programs and the principal investigator at Mines.

“Water temperature has a significant impact on fish and river ecosystems. If the temperature changes, the system may not be viable for survival – especially for trout which are sensitive to higher temperatures,” Hogue said. “As the climate warms and more wildfires disturb our watersheds, we’re seeing more variability in river temperatures. This affects not only fish but also local economies that rely on fishing and healthy waters.”

Opportunities also exist for additional researchers in Mines’ Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program – as well as students – to get involved in the effort, Hogue said.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our Hydrologic Science and Engineering Graduate Program, allowing collaborations with new faculty and researchers,” Hogue said. “Our students will be able to work with NOAA’s National Water Center and receive training in large-scale computational water predictions.”

In addition to Alabama and Mines, other consortium institutions are Brigham Young University; Tuskegee University; University of Arizona; University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of Hawaii at Manoa; University of Iowa; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Utah; Utah State University; University of Vermont; and University of Saskatchewan.

The broad geographic footprint is a key strength of the cooperative institute, Hogue said, since different regions of the U.S. have different issues when it comes to water. On the East Coast and in the Southeast, for example, flood prediction is crucial. In the western U.S., water supply is paramount.

“The goal is to make the national water model more operational and engage stakeholders from local to regional scales,” Hogue said. “By involving institutions from across the nation, we can better refine these models for site-specific decision-making on a variety of concerns, including water quantity and water quality issues.”

Emilie Rusch

Emilie Rusch

Director of Communications
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.