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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research 2 The Evolving Federal Role in Support of Water Resources Research The federal role in helping to ensure that the nation’s water resources meet public needs has changed dramatically over the years. Sustained congressional funding to support water resources research started in the 1950s, expanded considerably in the 1960s, and has remained essentially static since then. The research agenda supported by this funding has changed in response to shifting national priorities. This chapter provides a broad overview of the evolving federal role concerning water, starting at the time of European settlement. It then turns to a more detailed discussion of the federal role in water resources research and of efforts over the last 50 years to organize and coordinate federally supported water resources research. NATIONAL INTERESTS IN WATER Over the last 200 years, water resources in the United States have undergone a profound transformation. Initially considered as a means of transportation and navigation (and managed as such), water resources for much of the early 20th century were developed primarily as water sources for agriculture and later for industrial and municipal use. The most recent era of water resources management has seen a blossoming of efforts to protect waterbodies from both quality and quantity degradation brought on by such development. Support of Commerce and Settlement In this nation’s early years, the development of water resources for transportation and other purposes was left largely to private initiative. Congress regarded
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research its powers as narrowly confined to those explicitly conferred upon it by the U.S. Constitution. The earliest federal role in water development and management began in the 1820s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) was authorized to undertake work to improve the navigability of the nation’s coastal and inland waterways. This was made possible by a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden (9 Wheat. 1, 197 1824), which declared that Congress had the authority to regulate navigation on interstate rivers under the terms of the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. That authority was subsequently broadened by other rulings regarding navigable rivers and their tributaries (Maass, 1951; Hill, 1957). Thereafter, Congress made direct appropriations to the Corps for specific river and harbor improvements. One rationale for authorizing the Corps to be involved in domestic civil works was to provide work for officers during peacetime so as to maintain their engineering proficiency. Navigation improvements continued to be the norm until after the Civil War, when Congress expanded the role and authority of the Corps to include flood control (Holmes, 1972). During the latter half of the 19th century, the Corps’ authority was expanded in two distinct ways. First, the navigation activities that had previously been restricted to maintaining depth in natural channels by clearing debris were expanded to include the construction of dams and other structures on navigable waters. Simultaneously, the Corps also received authority to regulate the disposal of refuse as well as of dredge and fill materials, also for the purpose of protecting navigation. In this way, the Congress could ensure that the activities of the states and of private parties would not interfere with navigation. Second, the Corps was given responsibility for flood control on the lower Mississippi River, which on a regular basis was visited with devastating floods that adversely affected navigation and the development prospects of the region. To summarize, the federal interests in water resources during the 19th century were limited to matters related to navigation. The expansion of federal authorities into other areas would not occur until the 20th century, although important events in land acquisition and development that set the stage for this occurred in the 19th century (as discussed below). The period from 1775 to around 1850 has been characterized as the Era of Acquisition in the United States. During this period, the nation acquired most of the lands that would ultimately define the extent of the country on the North American continent, including the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the annexation of Texas in 1845, and the acquisition of the areas in the southwestern United States, including California, Arizona, and Nevada in 1848 through the Mexican Cession. With the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 and the acquisition of Alaska in 1867, the shape of the United States in North America looked very much the way it looks today. Beginning around 1850, the Congress made significant efforts to turn much of this land over to private ownership via the Homestead Act of 1862, as large
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research holdings of public lands were seen as inconsistent with democratic ideals. Furthermore, the concept of “Manifest Destiny” dictated early settlement as a means of consolidating western land expanses and the nation’s new borders. As this transition occurred, some well-documented abuses on private holdings began to surface, despite Congress’s having recently written many of the nation’s first grazing, mining, and timber laws. For example, some forested lands were cutover indiscriminantly, grazing lands were subjected to heavy and nonsustainable grazing pressures, and mining laws were widely abused. This led to federal action between 1880 and 1900 in which some of the remaining timbered lands were reserved to the national forest system and the national park system. It is interesting to note that in creating the national forest system, the Congress made clear that a primary purpose for establishing and managing forest reserves was to “secure favorable conditions of water flows” as a reliable supply for downstream users (16 USCA §475). In the latter decades of the 19th century, there was concern over the relative absence of settlement and development of broad expanses of land in the arid and semiarid West. Thus, in 1888 the Congress appropriated funds to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to undertake an “irrigation survey” under the leadership of John Wesley Powell.1 Powell’s report, The Arid Lands of the United States, underscored the lack of rainfall in the region and the unsuitability of its lands for agriculture without supplemental water through irrigation. Although ultimately rejected by the Congress, Powell’s report has become the single most definitive work describing the circumstances of the arid and semiarid West and recommending policies for the development of this region (Pisani, 1992). The Development Era The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt between 1901 and 1908 brought with it a new attitude about the federal role respecting natural resources, including water. In place of unfettered private development, Roosevelt promoted the need for governmentally supervised natural resources development to ensure their fullest possible use. This view was prompted to a large extent by the significant acreage of federal land that had been reserved and required management. With Roosevelt’s enthusiastic support, Congress passed the Reclamation Act of 1902, committing the federal government to a major role in the development of water resources for use in irrigation in the arid western states. Roosevelt supported an expanded role for the federal government in the comprehensive development of rivers for economic uses. The report of his Inland 1 For an excellent account of Powell’s life, see Worster (2001). For a more comprehensive treatment of the integration of science into the federal government including the work of Powell, see Dupree (1957).
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Waterways Commission (1908) recommended creation of a coordinated federal effort to plan for river development, in cooperation with state and local governments. However, in passing the Federal Water Power Act in 1920, Congress decided to limit the federal role in hydropower development to licensing nonfederal development of water power on navigable streams in a manner that would best promote comprehensive development of the water resources (Holmes, 1972). It gave this licensing authority to the newly created Federal Power Commission and directed the commission to conduct nationwide surveys of water-power-development opportunities. Simultaneously, Congress was expanding the role of the Corps. It continued to fund navigation improvements through periodic Rivers and Harbors acts, and it passed other legislation increasing the Corps’ flood-control responsibilities. Prior to 1936, the Corps’ authority with respect to flood control had been limited to surveys and planning except on the lower Mississippi River. With the Flood Control Act of 1936, Congress committed to a national program for the control of floods and granted the Corps authority to survey, plan, and construct flood-control works throughout the nation. With the coming of the Great Depression and the advent of the New Deal, the federal role was expanded in virtually all arenas. Multipurpose water development projects expanded rapidly as large-scale public-works programs became a favored means of providing employment and stimulating economic recovery. In addition to the substantial expansion of the construction activities of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the Corps, Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority and added a soil and water conservation function to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Large multipurpose regional water development projects occurred on the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado rivers in addition to multibasin projects such as California’s Central Valley Project. By the late 1930s, water projects accounted for 40 percent of the President’s budget recommendations for public works (Holmes, 1972). As the nation’s attention turned to war in the early 1940s, economic recovery was at hand and the need for many New Deal programs declined. The National Resources Planning Board, which had been the lone mechanism for coordinating federal water programs during the 1930s, was abolished in 1941, leaving agencies with such programs free to compete for congressional funding. The political attractiveness of using federal funding to pay for expensive water development projects motivated Congress to authorize even more of these projects in the 1940s and 1950s than it had in the 1930s (Holmes, 1972). Most of the water project funding went to the Corps and the USBR. However, Congress started a new program within USDA during this period directed at smaller projects in rural, agricultural areas. Known as the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-566), this program authorized federal support for projects intended to reduce erosion, control flooding, and provide water supplies at a small watershed level.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Inevitably, various reactions to these projects set in. Budget concerns prompted demands for more thorough analysis of the economic benefits of the projects in relation to their costs. Critics noted the substantial subsidies these projects frequently provided to the direct beneficiaries and users. In the early 1950s environmentalists mounted a successful campaign to oppose construction of a dam at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. Increasingly, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations and their Bureau of the Budget sought to force clearer economic justification for new projects. Circular A-47, issued at the end of the Truman administration, implemented a standard that proposed water projects would be expected to produce total benefits exceeding their costs. This standard had first appeared in the language of the Flood Control Act of 1936. Nevertheless, the funding of water projects had become a significant instrument of distributive politics as project beneficiaries, federal construction agencies, and members of Congress united in an “Iron Triangle” to secure a growing federal program of water projects (Ingram and McCain, 1977; Ingram, 1990). The resulting search to define an appropriate federal role in the development and management of water resources resulted in the creation of a series of commissions and committees between 1946 and 1956 to make recommendations concerning a national water resources policy.2 Then, in 1959 the Senate Select Committee on Water Resources was established and was chaired by Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma. This committee recommended federal action in five areas: streamflow regulation, water quality improvement, underground water storage, increased efficiency of water use, and increased water yield through desalting and weather modification. The primary rationale set forth for federally funded water projects was to enhance the supply of usable water, not necessarily to support local economic development. The Senate Select Committee also acknowledged a 1948 congressional finding that there was an appropriate federal role in the abatement of water pollution. There was also recognition that significant new federal funding would be required to address the nation’s water quality needs. Finally, the Senate Select Committee report was also noteworthy because it addressed the need for an enhanced federal program of water resources research (U.S. Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1969). The Era of Protection In the decade of the 1970s fundamental changes occurred in national water policies and programs. A new federal agency, many new federal statutes, and new roles and involvement for various stakeholders and the public changed the 2 Schad (1962) identifies eight such groups. Holmes (1972), pp. 40–43, provides a short summary of five of these: the first (1949) Hoover Commission; the 1950 President’s Water Resources Policy Commission; the 1952 House Subcommittee to Study Civil Works; the second (1955) Hoover Commission; and the 1955 Presidential Advisory Committee on Water Resources Policy.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research playing field for water resources and created new relationships. April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, signaled a new level of interest in and concern about environmental issues, particularly those associated with water resources. Simultaneously, public involvement in all types of decision making related to resources and the environment greatly increased. Many new, active interest groups demanded a say in water resource policy issues. These groups also supported the conduct of research upon which new programs of environmental protection and enhancement could be based. In 1970 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Executive Order by President Richard Nixon, and it quickly became the major agency in the regulation and enhancement of water quality (following congressional actions described below). During this time Congress moved aggressively to place the federal government in a more central role as promoter and regulator of environmental protection. The federal Water Pollution Control Act, originally enacted in 1948, was totally reshaped by the amendments of 1972 and 1977 (P.L. 92-500, P.L. 95-217) (Copeland, 2002). It ultimately became known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). This legislation declared all discharges into the nation’s waters to be unlawful, unless such discharges were specifically authorized by permit. The act set ambitious objectives to restore and maintain the physical, biological, and chemical integrity of the nation’s waters and to implement treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater (“point sources”), so that mandated standards could be met. Congress charged the EPA with determining the best available pollution control technologies for all major sources of discharges. Later amendments (1987) mandated the use of best management practices to control nonpoint sources of pollution. In 1974, Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA, P.L. 93-523), which established national standards and treatment requirements for public water supplies, controls on underground injection of waste, protections for drinking water sources, and provisions for financing needed infrastructure. Congress enacted major amendments in 1986 to accelerate the schedule for regulating additional contaminants in water and to increase the protection of groundwater. Additional amendments in 1996 subsequently changed the way new contaminants would be addressed, focusing on new risk-based approaches, emphasizing the use of the best available science, and increasing the focus on pollution prevention through source water protection. Other environmental legislation was also enacted during this period. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed in 1976, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or “Superfund”) was passed in 1980. Both of these laws had implications for new research on water quality and health issues. The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 linked the water quality protection efforts of EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and required that coastal zone planning and management be coordinated with the CWA.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Through all these laws, EPA was directed, both explicitly and implicitly, to establish new national programs of research (1) on the effects of pollutants on human and ecological health and (2) on improved technologies and management approaches for the prevention and reduction of pollutants. The most recent directive came in 2002, when Congress added requirements for EPA to conduct research on the security of public water supplies and on prevention and response to terrorist or other attacks (Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, P.L. 107-188). The national policy focus on protecting and enhancing the environment led to legislative mandates regarding activities that contributed to environmental degradation and the protection of unique ecosystems and species diversity, not all of which were based on regulation. Beginning in the mid 1980s, Congress included conservation provisions in the Farm Bill that were intended to minimize agriculture’s role in degrading water quality and adversely impacting other environmental features. A Conservation Reserve Program was created that authorized payment to landowners who temporarily retired lands that were highly erodible or environmentally sensitive. The Wetlands Reserve Program made payments available to farmers who were willing to return croplands to wetlands for at least 30 years. The 1990 Farm Bill added provisions for retiring croplands adjacent to waterbodies that would be managed as filter or buffer strips. A Water Quality Incentive Program (now part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program) offered technical and financial assistance to farmers willing to modify their agricultural practices in a manner that would reduce nonpoint source pollution. In addition to this greatly heightened interest in water quality protection, other laws reflected a growing interest in protecting the scenic, recreational, and ecological values of water. In 1968 Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (P.L. 90-542), establishing a national system of rivers that would remain free of federal water development. The landmark Endangered Species Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-205) was intended to halt and reverse the trend toward increasing, human-caused extinction of plant and animal species. Because of the essential role played by aquatic and riparian environments in the life cycle of many species, water-related impairment of such environments has become a major focus of Endangered Species Act implementation. In 1986, Congress amended the Federal Power Act to require that issuance (or renewal) of licenses for hydroelectric power facilities give “equal consideration” to energy conservation; protection, mitigation of damage to, and enhancement of fish and wildlife (including spawning grounds and habitat); protection of recreational opportunities; and preservation of other aspects of environmental quality along with the traditional considerations of power and development (16 USC §797(f)).
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research FEDERAL SUPPORT OF WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH The previous section illustrates that since the early 19th century, the nation’s water policies have evolved from emphasizing navigation and settlement, to emphasizing physical development of water supplies to ameliorate scarcity, and finally to emphasizing the protection and enhancement of the environment. It is useful to consider how these policies were manifested in federally funded water resources research over the last 100 years. The Beginnings Some of the earliest examples of water resources research in the United States include the Gallatin Report of 1807, which detailed infrastructure conditions and needs of the nation’s inland navigation routes, and the 1850s Ellet Report, which described conditions on the Mississippi River. Another early effort was the Humpheys and Abbot Report of 1861, which was recognized internationally for its pioneering research on the hydraulics of the Mississippi River. The next significant program of government-funded research specifically related to water was Powell’s survey in the 1880s. The USGS gradually expanded its program of hydrographic surveys while individual researchers conducted investigations of groundwater, sediment transport, and water pollution (Langbein, 1981). Shortly after the turn of the century, the USBR began to measure flows in rivers in which it intended to construct storage facilities. The 1908 Inland Waterways Commission promoted the concept of comprehensive development of the nation’s rivers, and the 1909 National Conservation Commission recommended large-scale hydrologic research in support of such comprehensive development (Holmes, 1972, p. 6). In the early decades of the 20th century, the role of the Corps expanded to include more planning and analysis related to its projects. Furthermore, the Federal Power Commission carried out surveys to determine potential locations for federally constructed hydroelectric power facilities, although authorization to construct and operate such facilities did not come until much later. The underlying purpose of all this federal research was to support water development and management programs and ensure that they contributed to regional economic development. Concern about fisheries indirectly led to early research efforts on water topics. At the urging of Spencer Baird, a respected scientist who eventually directed the Smithsonian Institution, Congress established a Fish Commission in 1871 and made Baird the unpaid head (Dupree, 1957, p. 236). He established the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with nonfederal funding in 1888. In 1903 the independent commission became the Bureau of Fisheries in the Department of Commerce and Labor. In somewhat similar fashion, Congress supported formation of a new division within USDA that eventually became the Division of the Biological Survey in 1896, with a program of research surveying the nation’s biota (Dupree, 1957, pp. 238–239).
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Water quality problems, especially related to drinking water, also motivated research efforts during the 19th century. Materials such as iron and new technologies such as steam-powered pumps, high-pressure systems, and filtration systems (slow sand, sand, and gravel) were first used to clean and distribute water (Rosen and Walker, 1968; Rosen, 1993; Webster, 1993; Embrey et al., 2002). By the middle of the century, several investigators in England and the United States had linked water contamination with certain infectious diseases. This finding spurred many remedial actions during the Sanitary Reform Movement, which was often effective in protecting public health even though it was not necessarily founded on scientific rationale (Rosen and Walker, 1968). It was the discovery of bacteria and the development of scientific methods (not all of which were federally funded) that provided the objective bases for more advanced, technically based water treatment and distribution systems. In the 1860s and 1870s, the research of Louis Pasteur, Ferdinand Cohn, and Robert Koch led to significant conceptual breakthroughs and standardized scientific criteria and methods. These innovations laid the foundations of microbiology, which yielded new knowledge about bacteria and their roles in causing disease. Extensive public health benefits resulted (Rosen, 1993). In 1880, the German scientist Karl Eberth discovered the typhoid bacillus, leading to the linkage between polluted drinking water and typhoid fever (Goddard, 1966). By the late 1800s, many pathogens had been identified, public health laboratories such as the Lawrence Experiment Station in Massachusetts had been established, and experiments had been conducted to determine how bacteria could be killed. As knowledge grew about pathogens in drinking water, chlorination became the new standard for assuring safe water supplies for human consumption, spearheaded by American engineer Abel Wolman (Wolman and Gorman, 1931). Several of the early federal research efforts occurred in the U.S. Public Health Service, which in 1910 conducted a two-year study of sewage pollution in streams around the Great Lakes and later investigated the role of pollution in the transmission of infectious disease. In 1913 the service established the Ohio River Investigation Station to conduct basic research on stream pollution and water purification. A pollution study of the Ohio River Basin, conducted jointly by the service and the Corps, served as the model for additional work authorized by the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 (Goddard, 1966). Funding for research on water problems came more slowly to other federal departments. Thus, for example, it was not until the 1930s that the USDA initiated a research program (through the Soil Conservation Service) to investigate techniques for controlling soil erosion. This early research evolved into the comprehensive water research program that is carried out by the USDA today, which focuses on the connection between agriculture and water resources. The importance of federally sponsored scientific research to the country’s World War II efforts prompted President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 to ask Vannevar Bush to examine possible federal roles in supporting scientific research
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research and development in the aftermath of the war. Bush’s report (1950) concluded that the country would benefit greatly if the kind of government-sponsored research that had been so critical to the war effort was now brought to bear on important problems of public health and welfare. He recommended that federal support be provided for basic as well as applied scientific research. Bush’s report is generally credited with providing the impetus for significant expansion of federally supported research in all areas of endeavor in the post-World War II period. Post-World War II In the immediate postwar period, water resources research continued at relatively modest levels and tended to be piecemeal among the federal agencies. It was focused primarily on issues related to the evaluation of water project proposals and improvements in planning techniques. The problems of water pollution and issues related to the management of fish and wildlife were also prominent. The 1948 Water Pollution Control Act increased the federal role in research related to water pollution and set the stage for even bigger increases that were to come 25 years later. In 1957 Congress appropriated funds for the USGS to establish for the first time a national-level program of core research related to hydrology. The modern era of water resources research had its beginnings with the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Resources (1961). This committee was the first to examine water resources research priorities in a comprehensive fashion. The committee recommended a coordinated scientific research program on water that would explore ways to increase available supplies and identify methods of increasing the efficiency of water use in the production of food and fiber and manufactured goods. The committee also noted the importance of expanding basic research into “natural phenomena” associated with water in all its forms. This latter finding would represent a significant broadening of scope for federally supported water research. Perhaps most important, the committee requested the executive branch to review existing water research programs and to develop a coordinated program of research aimed at meeting the needs identified in its 1961 report. The committee’s work ultimately led to a broad, comprehensive vision of water resources research and was the first attempt to coordinate water resources research across the federal enterprise. The newly elected John F. Kennedy and his administration responded by initiating studies at the National Academy of Sciences and the Federal Council for Science and Technology (FCST). Professor Abel Wolman prepared a report on water resources for the National Academy (NRC, 1962). In the report, he emphasized the need for more basic research related to water, stating that “less than one-fourth of one per cent of the total funds spent on water-resources development is allocated for basic research in water,” and he identified a number of areas in need of additional research. The FCST Report to the President on Water Research (summarized in U.S. Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs,
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research 1969) acknowledged the need for increased research, both within and outside the federal agencies. It provided an inventory of existing agency research programs, and it proposed that federal research be coordinated by a committee of representatives from each relevant agency, chaired by a senior official. Thus, in late 1963, FCST established a Committee on Water Resources Research (COWRR), chaired by a representative of the President’s Office of Science and Technology and including representatives from nine federal departments and commissions.3 This committee was charged with: identifying technical needs and priorities in various research and data categories reviewing the overall programmatic adequacy in water resources research in relation to needs recommending programs and measures to meet these needs advising on desirable allocations of effort among the agencies reviewing/making recommendations on the manpower and facilities of the program recommending management policies and procedures to improve the quality and vigor of the research effort facilitating interagency communication and coordination at management levels In 1966, COWWR published A Ten-Year Program of Federal Water Resources Research (COWWR, 1966, often referred to as The Brown Book). The committee defined two goals of the national water resources program. The first was “to manage our natural water resources and to augment them when necessary so as to meet all necessary requirements for water, both in quantity and quality.” The second was “to minimize water-caused damages to life and property.” The committee then specified the goal of federal water research to be the provision of knowledge necessary to meet the national water goals (listed above) as efficiently as possible. To accomplish these objectives, seven research areas were identified: Develop methods for conserving and augmenting the quantity of water available. Perfect techniques for controlling water to minimize erosion, flood damage, and other adverse effects. Develop methods for managing and controlling pollution to protect and improve the quality of the water resource. 3 The Office of Science and Technology and the Federal Council for Science and Technology transitioned in the 1970s to the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Office of President and its Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET).
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research ently federal responsibilities. However, it appeared that no administration had an incentive to support the program, given that Congress routinely added the necessary funding with or without administration support. The regional competitive grants program was also continued at modest levels. In the last decade, it has been recognized that resolving most of the major contemporary water problems goes beyond the capability of any single federal or nonfederal organization. Thus, multiagency, comprehensive approaches to both place-based and generic topics in water resources research have been supported to address priority problems. Examples include studies of the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, and the general problem of nonpoint source pollution. The Water Quality 2000 program of the Water Environment Federation issued A National Water Agenda for the 21st Century (WEF, 1992), which lays out various strategic options developed by representatives of more than 80 public, private, and nonprofit organizations. The National Nonpoint Source Forum was another public, private, and nonprofit initiative convened by the National Geographic Society and The Conservation Fund to develop partnership approaches to mitigate nonpoint source problems (National Geographic Society and The Conservation Fund, 1995). In 1998, partly in response to the 25th anniversary of the CWA, EPA and the USDA jointly issued a Clean Water Action Plan at the direction of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore (EPA, 1998). This plan involved input from, and identified key actions for, all federal agencies whose mission relates to water, including Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior, Justice, Transportation, EPA, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The plan calls for efforts to enhance watershed protection and strengthen ways to reduce polluted runoff, including a focus on new research. Although the plan garnered wide public support, congressional action was not forthcoming. More recently, the Water Science and Technology Board of the NRC produced a report entitled Envisioning the Agenda for Water Resources Research in the Twenty-first Century (NRC, 2001). Envisioning, which forms the basis for the current report, outlined 43 research priorities and called for the creation of a “national water research board” to establish and oversee the national water research agenda. To guide such a board, the report offered 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.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research 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 needs and the environmental impacts of management options. The research effort should be accountable to the public to ensure that the water resources research investment has been appropriately utilized to meet the nation’s needs. Finally, perhaps the latest recognition of the need for coordination to tackle the nation’s water problems is the 21st Century Water Commission Act of 2003. Introduced in the 108th Congress in January 2003 as H.R. 135, the proposal would establish the 21st Century Water Commission to study and develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy to address future water needs, particularly to ensure an adequate and dependable supply of water to meet U.S. needs for the next 50 years. As of this writing, this legislation has been adopted by the House of Representatives and awaits Senate action. SUMMARY Figure 2-1 summarizes the seminal events in water resources research that have been discussed in this chapter. Federal support of water-related research developed slowly because of the prevailing view during much of the 1800s that science was not a governmental function. As federal involvement in the development of rivers for navigation, flood control, and storage of water for irrigation grew, so did accompanying research (although in the early 20th century, the need was primarily for engineers, not scientists). Nevertheless, federal scientists played an important early role in the collection of information about the extent of the nation’s water resources, the nature of groundwater, and the need for protecting drinking water for public health purposes. It was not until the 1950s that Congress committed itself to supporting a comprehensive program of water research. The commitment, which was short-lived, peaked during the 1960s when Congress and the executive branch achieved a consensus in developing and funding a comprehensive research program and in coordinating its implementation. During this period, the two branches of government shared the view that the federal role in water entailed funding its development for human use while reducing problems of pollution. By the 1970s, the growing interest in environmental protection conflicted with interests in water development, such that the policy consensus was splintered. This cast the federal government into more of a regulatory role and deemphasized the federal role in promoting economic growth through water resources development. As broad support for national water policies that focused on development began to erode, competing interests pursued their individual objectives. Begin-
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research FIGURE 2-1 Timeline of 20th-century events, legislation, and publications in water resources research that are mentioned in this chapter.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research ning in the 1970s, water research became tied to programmatic “thrusts” of administrations or to statutorily defined objectives of Congress. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations asserted a more limited federal role in water resources research. In their view, research should be closely connected to helping to meet federal agency missions or to addressing problems beyond the scope of states or the private sector (such as global climate change or hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico). Congress, on the other hand, generally supported a broader approach to water resources research, but one that it could actively supervise through the legislative and appropriations processes. A consequence of the devolving of responsibility for water resources research back to the states was the neglect of long-term, basic research in favor of applied research that would lead to more immediate results. As summarized in Box 2-1, the priority elements of a national water resources research agenda have been identified in widely varying ways by many of the organizations and reports identified in this chapter. In some respects, each agenda reflects the view of the federal government’s role that was prevalent at the time the agenda was created. Thus, early research agendas stress research that would assist comprehensive water development, balanced with an interest in better decision-making criteria for determining whether such development warranted federal support. Later, as political support for federal funding of water development weakened and as the federal role shifted to technological and regulatory protection of water quality, the emphasis of the research agendas shifted accordingly. No doubt these variations also reflect to some degree the mental frame-works and particular interests of those who developed the agendas. And yet the general topics of scientific concern found in the agendas of Box 2-1 remain remarkably similar: water-based physical processes; availability of water resources for human use and benefit, including improving and protecting water quality; and hydrology–ecology relationships. The reappearance of the same topics over and over suggests that the nation’s research programs, both individually and collectively, have not responded in an adequate manner. Box 2-1 further-more suggests that there is no structure in place to make use of the research agendas generated by various expert groups. Indeed, at the national level there is no coordinated process for considering water resources research needs, for prioritizing them for funding purposes, or for evaluating the effectiveness of research activities. It is no surprise that common refrains within many of the reports cited in Box 2-1 are for better coordination of research efforts—a topic that is returned to in Chapter 6. There could be several explanations for why the country has failed to mount a serious, comprehensive water resources research program in spite of more than half a dozen efforts to define national research agendas in the past 40 years. The responsibilities for water resources development and management are fragmented among a number of agencies, and it appears that the agencies have no incentive to act in concert with each other to support the development of a unified national
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research BOX 2-1 Water Research Priorities of Various Organizations, Committees, and Reports Senate Select Committee Report (1961) expansion of basic water research more balanced and better-constructed program of applied research for increasing water supplies an expanded program of applied research for conservation and making better use of existing supplies evaluation of completed projects with a view to making them more effective in meeting changing needs and providing better guidelines for future projects federally coordinated research programs to meet these objectives Abel Wolman Report (NRC, 1962) Arid areas research: conjunctive ground-surface water management evaporation suppression and transpiration control salinity control and use of saline water factors governing the entrainment, transport, and deposition of suspended sediment factors governing snow melt induced rainfall Humid areas research: developing water-purification methods means of forecasting the effects of wastes on receiving water and toward quantifying pollution damages means for the detection and identification of traces of pollutants and toxicological research on their possible chronic effects on public health All areas research: forecasting and controlling channel modifications improving the process of approximating optimum water resources systems improving streamflow forecasting improving weather forecasting physiological aspects of water Committee on Water Resources Research (1966) (The Brown Book) research on water resources planning research on water pollution control research on water conservation
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research ecological impact of water development effect of man’s activities on water costs of water resources development research on “far-out” ideas the problem of climatic change information storage and dissemination a program of problem assessment water resources research laboratories experimental watershed studies coordination of research manpower National Water Commission (1973) assessing impacts of water resources development improving wastewater treatment evaluating water for energy production nonpoint source pollution more efficient water use development of new technologies Committee on Water Resources Research (1977) The committee identified six national issues motivating the need for water research: energy, food and fiber production, the environment and public health, population growth, land use, and materials. The water problems inherent in these issues suggested six general research areas: hydrologic and hydraulic processes water quality planning and institutions atmospheric and precipitation processes hydrologic–ecological relationships water supply development and management NRC Federal Water Resources Research (NRC, 1981) Physical processes hydrologic characteristics of vadose zone atmospheric transport and precipitation of contaminants flood frequency determination hydrologic factors in water quality climate variability and trends erosion, sedimentation, and nutrient transport weather and hydrologic forecasting
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Ecological–environmental effects of waterborne pollutants on aquatic ecosystems consequences of waste disposal in marshes, estuaries, and oceans physical alteration of wetlands and estuaries environmental degradation from water projects Water quality significance of trace contaminants to human health water reuse control of contaminants from energy development land disposal of wastes monitoring for pollution control Water management water problems of food and fiber production in stressed environments conjunctive management of ground and surface water water conservation in municipal, industrial, energy, and agricultural uses control of pollution from nonpoint sources management systems for water resources management of resources under flood and drought hazards Institutional institutional arrangements for reallocation of water institutional arrangements for groundwater management assignment of responsibilities for water and related resource management among federal, state, and local levels of government institutional arrangements for water conservation flood and drought hazard mitigation resolution of conflicts over alternative courses of action institutional arrangements for achieving erosion and sediment control impacts of water management policies and programs institutional arrangements for water resources research Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences (NRC, 1991) chemical and biological components of the hydrologic cycle scaling of dynamic behavior land surface–atmospheric interactions coordination of global-scale observations of water reservoirs and the fluxes of water and energy hydrologic effects of human activity maintenance of continuous long-term datasets improved information management interpretation of remote sensing data dissemination of data from multidisciplinary experiments
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research The Freshwater Imperative (Naiman et al., 1995) restoring and rehabilitating freshwater ecosystems maintaining biodiversity understanding the effects of modified hydrologic flow patterns describing the importance of ecosystem goods and services provided by freshwater ecosystems developing new paradigms of predictive management based on interdisciplinary research and new models of institutional organization that can respond to novel or unforeseen problems Envisioning the Agenda for Water Resources Research (NRC, 2001) Water availability develop new and innovative supply-enhancing technologies improve existing supply-enhancing technologies such as wastewater treatment, desalting, and groundwater banking increase safety of wastewater treated for reuse as drinking water develop innovative techniques for preventing pollution understand physical, chemical, and microbial contaminant fate and transport control nonpoint source pollution understand impact of land-use changes and best management practices on pollutant loading to waters understand impact of contaminants on ecosystem services, biotic indices, and higher organisms understand assimilation capacity of the environment and time course of recovery following contamination improve integrity of drinking water distribution systems improve scientific bases for risk assessment and risk management with regard to water quality understand national hydrologic measurement needs and develop a program that will provide these measurements develop new techniques for measuring water flows and water quality, including remote sensing and in situ techniques develop data collection and distribution in near real time for improved forecasting and water resources operations improve forecasting the hydrologic cycle over a range of time scales and on a regional basis understand and predict the frequency and cause of severe weather (floods and droughts) understand recent increases in damage from floods and droughts understand global change and its hydrologic impacts
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Water use understand determinants of water use in the agricultural, domestic, commercial, public, and industrial sectors understand relationship of agricultural water use to climate, crop type, and water application rates develop improved crops for more efficient water use and optimize the economic return for water used develop improved crop varieties for use in dryland agriculture understand water-related aspects of the sustainability of irrigated agriculture understand behavior of aquatic ecosystems in a broad, systematic context, including their water requirements enhance and restore species diversity in aquatic ecosystems improve manipulation of water-quality parameters to maintain and enhance aquatic habitats understand interrelationship between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems to support watershed management Water institutions develop legal regimes that promote groundwater management and conjunctive use of surface and groundwater understand issues related to the governance of water where it has common pool and public good attributes understand uncertainties attending to Native American water rights and other federal reserved rights improve equity in existing water management laws conduct comparative studies of water laws and institutions develop adaptive management develop new methods for estimating the value of nonmarketed attributes of water resources explore use of economic institutions to protect common pool and pure public good values related to water resources develop efficient markets and market-like arrangements for water understand role of prices, pricing structures, and the price elasticity of water demand understand role of the private sector in achieving efficient provision of water and wastewater services understand key factors that affect water-related risk communication and decision processes understand user-organized institutions for water distribution, such as cooperatives, special districts, and mutual companies develop different processes for obtaining stakeholder input in forming water policies and plans understand cultural and ethical factors associated with water use conduct ex post research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of past water policies and projects
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research water resources research agenda. Furthermore, over the last 40 years the competition for federal funds in general and research funding in particular has intensified, with water resources research not being a national priority compared to health and defense-related issues. In the face of historical failures to mount an effective, broadly conceived program of national water resources research, it is reasonable to ask “Why bother with yet another comprehensive proposal?” The answer lies in the sheer number of water resources problems (as illustrated in Chapter 1) and the fact that these problems are growing in both number and intensity. If the nation is to address these problems successfully, an investment must be made not only in applied research but also in fundamental research that will form the basis for applied research a decade hence. A repeat of failed past efforts will likely lead to enormously adverse and costly outcomes on the status and condition of water resources in almost every region of the United States. REFERENCES Bush, V. 1950. Science–The Endless Frontier (40th Anniversary Edition). Washington, DC: The National Science Foundation. Committee on Water Resources Research (COWWR). 1966. A Ten-Year Program of Federal Water Resources Research. Washington, DC: Federal Council for Science and Technology, Office of Science and Technology, Executive Office of the President. Committee on Water Resources Research (COWWR). 1977. Directions in U.S. Water Research: 1978–1982. Washington, DC: Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology. Copeland, C. 2002. Clean Water Act: A Summary of the Law. CRS Report for Congress, RL30030, updated January 24, 2002. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Dupree, A. H. 1957. Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Embrey, M., R. Parkin, and J. Balbus. 2002. Handbook of CCL Microbes in Drinking Water. Denver, CO: American Water Works Association. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 1998. Clean Water Action Plan: Restoring and Protecting America’s Waters. Washington, DC: EPA. Goddard, M. K. 1966. Water Supply and Pollution Control. In Origins of American Conservation, Henry Clepper (ed.). New York, NY: Ronald Press. Hill, F. G. 1957. Roads, Rails and Waterways: The Army Engineers and Early Transportation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Holmes, B. H. 1972. A History of Federal Water Resources Programs, 1800–1960. Miscellaneous Publication No. 1233. Washington, DC: USDA Economic Research Service. Ingram, H. 1990. Water Politics: Continuity and Change. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. Ingram, H., and J. R. McCain. 1977. Federal Water Resources Management: The Administrative Setting. The Public Administration Review 37(5). September/October. Inland Waterways Commission. 1908. Preliminary Report, Doc. 325, 60th Cong., 1st sess., 1908 at 27. Washington, DC: Inland Waterways Commission. James, L. D. 1995. NSF research in hydrologic sciences. Journal of Hydrology 172:3–14. Langbein, W. D. 1981. A History of Research in the USGS/WRD. WRD Bulletin, October–December. Maass, A. 1951. Muddy Waters: The Army Engineers and the Nation’s Rivers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems: The Role of Research Naiman, R. J., J. J. Magnuson, D. M. McKnight, and J. A. Stanford, eds. 1995. The Freshwater Imperative: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: Island Press. National Geographic Society and The Conservation Fund. 1995. Water: A Story of Hope. Washington, DC: The Terrene Institute. National Research Council (NRC). 1962. Water Resources: A Report to the Committee on Natural Resources of the National Academy of Sciences—National Research Council, Publication 1000-B. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (NRC). 1981. Federal Water Resources Research: A Review of the Proposed Five-Year Program Plan. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (NRC). 1991. Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council (NRC). 2001. Envisioning the Agenda for Water Resources Research in the Twenty-first Century. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). 2000. 2000 Annual Report, at p. 14. Washington, DC: Office of Science and Technology Policy NSTC. National Water Commission. 1973. Water Policies for the Future. Washington, DC: National Water Commission. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). 1981. In Cooperation with the National Science Foundation, Annual Science and Technology Report to the Congress. Washington, DC: OSTP. Pisani, D. J., 1992. To Reclaim a Divided West: Water, Law, and Public Policy 1848–1902. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. Rosen, G. 1993. The History of Public Health. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Rosen, G., and M. E. M. Walker. 1968. Pioneers for Public Health. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press. Schad, T. M. 1962. An analysis of the work of the Senate Select Committee on National Water Resources, 1959–1961. Natural Resources Journal 2:226–247. Senate Select Committee on National Water Resources. 1961. Senate Report No. 29, 87th Cong., 1st Sess. U. S. Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. 1969. History of the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on National Water Resources. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Universities Council on Water Resources. 1985. Summary Report of the National Conference on Water Resources Research. Lincoln, NE. Viessman, W., Jr., and C. K. Caudill. 1976. The Water Resources Research Act of 1964: An Assess ment. Washington, DC: Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 94th Congress. Webster, C. (ed.). 1993. Caring for Health: History and Diversity. Norwich, UK: Open University. Water Environment Federation (WEF). 1992. A National Water agenda for the 21st Century. Alexandria, VA: WEF. Wolman, A., and A. E. Gorman. 1931. The Significance of Waterborne Typhoid Fever Outbreaks, 1920–1930. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins Co. Worster, D. 2001. A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell. New York: Oxford University Press.
Representative terms from entire chapter: