Our Views: The studies of water

Water, water everywhere — at least around here, where Louisiana is the beneficiary of the Mississippi River delta.

Water shortages are more the rule elsewhere, including in Texas and in California, giant states that face challenges supplying water for growing cities, not to mention the needs of agriculture and industry.

The greatest part of the work of Louisiana’s new Water Institute of the Gulf has been focused on the “gulf” part — coastal erosion and restoration of our state’s battered coastline. Water, though, is also part of the title and will have an increasing role in the research at the institute.

Chip Groat, president and chief executive officer of the Water Institute, told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday that the independent research group has been working with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to support planning by improving computer modeling on coastal processes, research on water and sediment flow in the Mississippi River and other river deltas.

“The science we do is applied science for coastal restoration and protection,” Groat said. “This information is to be applied. It’s to help make decisions.”

That focus and funding is driving what Groat described as fruitful partnerships with academic institutions around the state — Groat came from the University of Texas but had been at LSU and the Louisiana Geological Survey earlier in his career.

The “water” part of the title includes not only research that can be of value to the Mississippi River delta but also to river deltas around the world. The institute is now working with Vietnamese scientists in the Mekong Delta, for example.

The model for the Louisiana institute is the Dutch organization Deltares. In the wake of the 2005 hurricanes, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., organized bipartisan delegations of New Orleans and state officials to visit the Netherlands and Belgium to study those countries’ solutions to flooding and coastal erosion. The institute, funded by the state and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, hopes to have a worldwide role on water issues.

University partners across Louisiana and the institute collaborated on a proposal to have the institute named as a Center of Excellence under the RESTORE Act, which means it will get a portion of the money assigned through the act as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

The funding of the institute is a long-term response not only to the crises of nine years ago after landfall of Hurricane Katrina but the issues arising from water management in the state and around the world.