AWRA 2024 Spring Conference

Water Risk and Resilience: Research and Sustainable Solutions

April 8-10, 2024 | Tuscaloosa, AL | Bryant Conference Center at the University of Alabama

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Welcome Remarks

Mayor Walt Maddox
Mayor, City of Tuscaloosa
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

On May 17, 2021, Maddox was sworn in for his fifth term as Tuscaloosa’s 36th mayor. He currently serves as a senior fellow with the Program on Crisis Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2012, Mayor Maddox was named Municipal Leader of the Year by American City and County.

Mayor Maddox is a Tuscaloosa native and graduated from Central High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration from The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He is married to Stephanie Roberts Maddox and has two children.


Dr. John C. Tracy
Director of the Colorado Water Center
Colorado State University

Dr. Tracy serves as Director of the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University, starting his position in the summer of 2022. Dr. Tracy has led research and outreach initiatives on understanding and developing sustainable water management practices in a wide range of hydro-climatological systems across the western United States, including the western High Plains, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Great Basin, and Pacific Northwest regions. His more recent programs have focused on increasing our understanding of the integrated behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic, and social conditions; and understanding community water security from a socio-technical perspective. Dr. Tracy received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University in 1980, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Davis in 1986 and 1989, respectively. Prior to his position at the Colorado Water Center, Dr. Tracy served as Director of the Center for Watershed and Environmental Sustainability at the Desert Research Institute, the Director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Idaho, Director of the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M AgriLife, and Department Head for the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. Dr. Tracy also served as President of the American Water Resources Association, the University Council on Water Resources, and as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Institutes for Water Resources.


Ed Clark
Director of the National Water Center and Deputy Director of the Office of Water Prediction

Edward Clark is the director of NOAA’s National Water Center (NWC) in Tuscaloosa, AL and deputy director of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Office of Water Prediction (OWP). As director, Clark oversees operations, guides the management and strategic direction of the Office of Water Prediction, and facilitates collaborative efforts to evolve NOAA’s water prediction capabilities. Under Clark’s leadership, OWP and the NWC have continuously grown as an organization to directly enhance the mission of NOAA. Since 2016, there have been rapid advancements made to improve water resources including, but not limited to:

  • NOAA’s first hydrologic modeling framework, National Water Model - which includes expansion to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands with expansion to Alaska to be provided in 2023
  • An interagency Next Generation Water Resources Modeling Framework
  • The first ever NWS Cooperative Institute focused on operational hydrology known as the “Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology” (CIROH)
  • Signed Flood Inundation Mapping Construct of Operations
  • Collaboration with federal agencies as well as academia to support 8 years of the National Water Center’s Innovator’s Program through the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc, to explore and develop next generation national flood forecasting.

Before becoming NWC director, Clark served as OWP’s Geo-Intelligence Division Director. In this role, he worked closely with multiple federal agency partners, including USGS, USACE and FEMA on a variety of projects associated with the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services consortium. Earlier in his career, Ed served in NWS headquarters as the National Flash Flood Service Leader in the Analyze, Forecast, and Support Office. Clark began his career in the NWS as an operational hydrologic forecaster, working as a senior hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City for seven years. He is a civil engineer by training with an emphasis in water resources and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Utah.

Tuesday Keynote

Allen Williams, Ph.D.
Founding Partner
Understanding Ag, LLC
Soil Health Academy
Regenified, LLC

Allen Williams, Ph.D. is a 6th generation family farmer and founding partner of Understanding Ag, LLC, the Soil Health Academy, and Regenified, LLC. He has consulted with more than 4500 farmers and ranchers around the world, on operations ranging from a few acres to over 1 million acres.

He has been featured in the Carbon Nation film series, "Soil Carbon Cowboys", the Roots So Deep documentary series, the Dr. Oz show, in A Regenerative Secret, the Farmer’s Footprint film series, the Sacred Cow film series, TedX Boston, and COP28. Allen has authored more than 400 articles.

Wednesday Luncheon Keynote

Portia Shepherd
Executive Director
Blackbelt Women Rising

Portia Shepherd A motivated professional with a proven track record of building relationships and implementing life changing strategies, Portia Shepherd is a woman for the people. Struggling internally in high school, Portia dropped out. Yet, she didn't give up. Portia was determined to better herself. As a result, she received her GED the same year and went on to pursue higher education. As a native of the Blackbelt of Alabama, Portia is a proud graduate of Miles College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and became a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. After graduating from Miles, she then went on to pursue her Masters in Non-profit Leadership and Management from New England College.

Portia is a consultant and keynote speaker with more than fifteen years of experience across various industries including but not limited to political campaigns, nonprofit and professional services, and environmental improvements. In 2019, Portia was recognized as an expert in Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence by SHESource.

As a political consultant, she has advised current and past government officials and industry associations. Portia has also served on the Board of Directors for several organizations. As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Portia has taken the principles of her sorority and has used them in her everyday life; including her role as the Founder & Executive Director of Blackbelt Women Rising, a gender and environmental justice organization.

Through her efforts of working with citizens of the Blackbelt region who are fighting for health and environmental improvements and gender issues, she has appeared on FOX News w/ Tucker Carson, The Washington Post, NowThis, BBC World News, HBO Last Week Tonight, local television stations and radio stations.


AWRA Code of Conduct

All conference participants (presenters, moderators, panelists, attendees, etc.) must adhere to the AWRA Code of Conduct and must register at the appropriate registration rate. AWRA Gateway members are not eligible for discounted conference rates. The registration fees are the major source of funding for the Conference, and the sharing of registrations is prohibited - every person attending the conference must register. For presenters, if two or more individuals will be presenting, each individual must register for the conference. This includes: all technical session presenters; all panel session presenters; and all poster session presenters.

Cancelations must be made in writing. Those cancelations received by February 8, 2024 will be subject to a processing fee of 30% of total fees. No refunds will be given after February 8, 2024 but we can transfer your registration to someone else. The transfer must be completed by April 1, 2024. Abstract submission fees are nonrefundable. Refunds will be processed after the conclusion of the conference. Conference location decisions are guided by AWRA's policy.


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