NSSL works to create “drought-proof” water supply in Oklahoma

NSSL has joined the Arbuckle-Simpson Water Bank Project – an unprecedented effort to provide Oklahomans with the tools to create a “drought-proof” water supply. The Water Bank project will integrate and expand on existing weather, water and geologic monitoring networks to create an easy to use and understand water inventory and management dashboard. The focus of the project will be the upper portion of the Blue River watershed of the south-central Oklahoma aquifer area.

NOAA’s current WSR-88D network of Doppler radars and NSSL’s radar research platforms, including dual-polarimetric and phased-array radars, will be critical components in the inventory of platforms used for real-time weather and water observations. NSSL’s multi-sensor quantitative precipitation estimation system, Q2, will leverage this collection of real-time data to increase the accuracy of rainfall estimates within the aquifer area. Real-time observations will be linked with high-resolution rainfall estimates and increase the accuracy of predicted surface water and groundwater levels produced by a suite of existing and emerging numerical weather and water models from NSSL, the University of Oklahoma (OU), and Vieux, Inc.

Key to the success of the Water Bank is the unique partnership led by the Chickasaw Nation, headquartered in Ada, Oklahoma. Other groups involved are: federal (NOAA NSSL), state (Oklahoma Climatological Survey and Oklahoma Water Resources Board), academia (OU and Oklahoma State University) and private companies (American Water Institute and Vieux, Inc.).

Oklahoma’s legacy is the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. In response, surface water reservoirs were constructed across the state to lessen the effects of future droughts. These reservoirs are now aging, and over 70% of the water is lost to sedimentation or evaporation before it can be used. Water Bank researchers believe capturing and holding floodwaters using aquifers could supply at least half of Oklahoma’s annual water needs. This proactive management strategy will help mitigate hazardous flood flows while increasing water supplies.

Significance: Water shortages are a global issue. Development of this technology in Oklahoma will likely develop commercialization opportunities throughout the U.S. and potentially across the globe.

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