Professor advances flood prediction research


Adam Zhang

Professor Murugesu Sivapalan gives lecture to students in the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory on Wednesday. Sivapalan was awarded the Creativity Prize by the eighth Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water for his work in flood prevention.

By Zihan Wang, Staff Writer

Murugesu Sivapalan, University professor in Engineering, has been awarded the Creativity Prize by the eighth Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water.

The prize rewards scientists, inventors and research organizations around the world for their contributions in the fight against global water problems, according to the PSIPW website.

Sivapalan and his colleague Günter Blöschl were recognized for their work in socio-hydrology.

“Socio-hydrology is a new science that studies the two-way feedbacks between water systems and people; i.e., the effects of societal actions on hydrology and the effects of hydrological phenomena on societal development,” Sivapalan said in an email.

Socio-hydrology views water problems as an economic issue and a cultural and social issue.

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Sivapalan’s team developed a universally-applicable seven-step method for flood predictions and provided the first-ever global assessment of flood prediction performance across distinct climate and landscape gradients, according to the website.

“The goal is to generate generalizable and universal understanding that can help sustainable water management in the future,” Sivapalan said.

Sivapalan’s work provides an approach for the prediction of long-term human-flood dynamics and addresses many vexing water management challenges in the face of population growth and climate change.

Sivapalan said he was delighted socio-hydrology was recognized.

“It was a vindication for our risky decision to launch this field less than six years ago. The prize will make it easier for us to push forward with advancing the field and to gain more support for our efforts, including research funding,” he said.

The Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water is one of the most prestigious prizes in the hydrology and water resources field, said Megan Konar, assistant professor in Engineering, in an email.

Konar is a colleague of Sivapalan’s, and she said he is passionate about his work and always makes time for his students and colleagues.

“Siva’s receipt of this prize will bring notoriety and distinction to an already well-recognized program in hydrology and water resources in CEE at Illinois,” Konar said.

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