POTSDAM - Clarkson University is on the verge of housing a real-time water monitoring system that will thrust the institution and its partners into the middle of a global competition.
On Monday, university, state and village officials gathered on the Clarkson campus to celebrate a plan that will bring the north country's first green data center to downtown Potsdam.
The plan will transform the university's Old Main building into an energy-efficient hub for environmental research. There, scientists will use state-of-the-art computer software to monitor and analyze data collected from a trio of New York waterways.
The implementation of this system will give the university, and the state, a leg up in the race to create better water monitoring devices, a competition officials compared to the race to the moon decades ago.
"We live in a water economy," Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins said, "and there is intense pressure to establish the most up to date and cutting edge systems to monitor that economy."
In October, Clarkson announced it would oversee the nonprofit Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.
The announcement built upon a relationship established in 2007, when the two groups, along with IBM, combined to develop complex water monitoring networks in the Hudson, Mohawk and St. Lawrence Rivers.
"Clearly we've grabbed an advantage," Mr. Collins said, adding later "we want to be in that race and we are going to win that race."
In order to effectively monitor the networks from Potsdam, researchers would need a large array of processing equipment. So IBM, a longtime partner with the Beacon Institute, awarded Clarkson over $1 million in computer software and technology to create the data center.
"The scarcest and most important natural resource that we have is water," Mr. Collins said. "We need to understand water quality on a moment by moment basis in important waterways."
A series of sensors strategically placed throughout the rivers will send data to the Potsdam center by way of high-speed broadband Internet. The continuous flow of information will give researchers insight into the waterways and help them understand changes in the environment, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said.
"I think this partnership and what it plans to do is really the future of where science is going to be moving, easily in the next decade or two," she said.
It was legislation sponsored by Ms. Russell and state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, that allowed funding previously awarded to the Beacon Institute to be allocated to Clarkson for the research center.
"It seems like a very minor piece but it was a critical piece in order for this project to be able to move forward," she said.
Aside from the environmental advantages, the research facility will also provide Potsdam and the north country with a much-need economic boost. While no construction date was announced, Ms. Russell said the development of the center would "provide the jobs to renovate the building, to reinvigorate the downtown here in Potsdam and to ensure that there are good paying jobs at the cutting edge of technology right here."