EPA, UT announce project to help with water quality and flood concerns

Water drainage (KXAN Photo)
Water drainage (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Flooding concerns are no stranger to those in Central Texas. However, another issue that can arise with flooding are problems within the storm drainage system and the impacts that could have on our water quality. A new water research grant could have the University of Texas playing a big role in better addressing those issues in the future.

A $3.9 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency has recently been awarded to the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas, in order to create a center where they can use water infrastructure models to locate flooding problems in drains, as well as handle issues in water quality. One model simulates storm water runoff, sewers and drainage. The second model simulates how water is piped to your home.

“What we’re doing is taking those models over from the EPA, and we’re going to bring them into the next generation of modeling,” says Dr. Ben Hodges, an associate professor at the UT Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

In addition to the EPA and UT taking part in this research center, another main partner is the Urban Watersheds Research Institute, which is a nonprofit that works in improving in water management out of Denver. Additional contributors are Texas Tech University, Brigham Young University and North Carolina State University.

Dr. Hodges says that this enhancement to the models and project have been a long time coming as the EPA looks at their own mission. “These models were developed more than 20 years ago and the EPA has kept them up, but it’s becoming more difficult for them to keep the models up and try to engage the community,” says Dr. Hodges. “So they wanted a center to be run out of the university that would engage the community, would bring these models up and a part of our goal is to make this center self-sustaining.”

Dr. Hodges stresses the importance of community involvement throughout the project. The goal is that at the end of five years, when the grant money from the EPA runs out, to have contributors from the cities, from engineering firms, from vendors, etc. help us keep this project going strong.

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