NAWQA must stay firm in its design to meet its national goals and should not change critical design plans to meet the diverse needs of the many federal, state, and local agencies that seek to participate in the program or utilize its data and information. Thus, NAWQA must uphold its careful balancing act to uphold its design principles while finding new ways to collaborate that build and improve the program as it enters Cycle II. Perhaps more importantly, such collaboration should strive to improve and strengthen other water-related programs to enhance the total knowledge of the nation’s water resources. To do this, other agencies that want to utilize NAWQA or to coordinate programs with NAWQA also have a responsibility to fully collaborate with the program (i.e., to give, not just take). As large as NAWQA is, its program resources are often too constrained to fully meet its national goals. Continued flat budgets or budget cuts will not allow NAWQA to meet its goals or to provide the information that Congress and other agencies desire without continued design changes and cutbacks. The significant scaling back of study units in Cycle II discussed in Chapter 2 is but one example. Further programmatic and design changes that can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of NAWQA in Cycle II are certainly warranted and should continue to be developed. However, providing a national perspective on the nation’s water quality requires adequate support. While Congress must recognize this, other agencies also have to contribute their due support, with staffing, fiscal, or in-kind support where possible, to help cover their unique needs and requests. The USGS also should try to ensure reasonable overhead to keep transaction costs affordable for cooperators.
A potentially sensitive issue in cooperative programs can be ensuring that full and proper credit is given where credit is due. Often the largest or most visible program in a cooperative effort receives the majority of credit for its accomplishments, whether warranted or not. All cooperators need to be aware of this common and unfortunate situation to help ensure that ample credit is provided and directed to appropriate parties. To some observers, NAWQA has become synonymous with USGS water resources programs, particularly among those new to using USGS information. This cannot help but strain important internal relationships. NAWQA must continue to recognize and share credit with its internal and external partners.
This chapter outlines several pertinent examples of cooperative efforts that are taking place within NAWQA. Through these examples, the committee hopes to address the various cooperation and coordination concerns and issues raised at committee meetings or during interviews and meetings with USGS-NAWQA personnel and others with a vested interest in NAWQA data and information. These examples address both benefits and problems for the program, illustrate typical management challenges, and hopefully, identify some new or expanded opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.