significant constraints on public resources, it is imperative that we be more systematic and strategic in planning water research if credible arguments for more resources are to be mounted.
It would be a mistake to think that the only problem is the lack of coordination of the various federal agencies involved in water research. Rather, a coordinated research program in which researchers and agenda setters can be accountable to the public will require an alignment of state and federal governments, research universities, users and purveyors of all kinds, non-profit organizations, and public interest groups. These groups will need to ally to identify and support the research agenda of the twenty-first century. Although the notion that the research agenda should be set in a decentralized fashion may have much appeal, recent experience suggests that decentralized agenda-setting has been unduly reactive and sometimes neglectful of long-term issues. One consequence of this has been that the environmental impacts of many engineering works were unforeseen and misunderstood. Both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research should help to avoid a repetition of this kind of mistake.
A more viable mechanism is needed for setting and overseeing the water resources research agenda, based on the following principles:
An effective alliance with and active participation of water resources research stakeholders is required;
A systematic, strategic, and balanced agenda of both core and problem-driven research priorities should be set to meet short- and long-term needs;
The core research agenda should develop (1) greater understanding of the basic processes—physical, biological, and social—that underlie environmental systems at different scales, (2) appropriate environmental monitoring programs, and (3) research tools to identify and measure structural and functional attributes of aquatic and related ecosystems (NRC, 1997a);
The national water resources research effort should be coordinated to reduce needless duplication and to ensure that gaps do not occur;
The research effort should be multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary;
The research effort should be proactive and anticipate the nation's water needs and the environmental impacts of management options; and
The research effort should be accountable to the public to assure that the water resources research investment has been appropriately utilized to meet the nation's needs.