Background and Legislation

Flood of 2008

Taken from the air, this photo shows the UI campus inundated by floodwaters in June 2008.

Aerial photos of the UI campus taken when the Iowa River was about 31 feet. Flood stage for the Iowa River at Iowa City is 22 feet. The previous record was set in 1993 at 28.5 feet.

In the aftermath of the record-setting 2008 floods in Eastern Iowa, IIHR’s Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski co-founded the Iowa Flood Center (IFC), which required a new research focus and outward-facing philosophy. The IFC focuses its research efforts on direct service to the people of Iowa.

Floodwaters encroach on the University of Iowa campus in 2008.In between filling sandbags and moving out of flood-endangered buildings, IIHR researchers began collecting time-sensitive data on many aspects of the flood — including high-resolution data to document flood water elevations and contaminated sediments deposited by flood waters. The flood helped catalyze the formation of new teams of researchers from across the university’s campus to work together on flood-related initiatives. Researchers also sought funding from a variety of sources; in the first 12 months after the flood, the National Science Foundation awarded the UI more than $500,000 for flood-related research.

In the process of conducting this work, IIHR researchers realized that there was no academic center in Iowa (or in the nation) for advanced research and education focused on floods. Discussion and formulation of a plan to establish an Iowa-based center for flood research and education followed. The University of Iowa was the logical home for this center, based on the institution’s experience during the flood and because it is home to IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, one of the preeminent hydraulics laboratories in the United States.

In spring 2009, the state of Iowa established (and funded) the new Iowa Flood Center (IFC). Several Iowa legislators spearheaded this effort, assisted behind the scenes by IIHR researchers Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski. The legislature appropriated $1,300,000 for the IFC in its first year (FY2010).

The IFC is now actively engaged in flood projects in many Iowa communities and employs a growing group of graduate and undergraduate students who participate in its flood-related research. IFC researchers have designed a cost-efficient sensor network to better monitor stream flow in the state; have developed a library of flood-inundation maps for more than 20 Iowa communities; and have completed new floodplain maps for 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Legislation: The Iowa Flood Center Bill



The state board of regents shall establish and maintain in Iowa City as a part of the state University of Iowa an Iowa Flood Center. In conducting the activities of this chapter, the Center shall work cooperatively with the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Water Resources Coordinating Council, and other state and federal agencies.

The Iowa Flood Center shall have all of the following purposes: