Summary

Water is our most fundamental natural resource, a resource that is limited. Challenges to our nation’s water resources continue to grow, driven by population growth, ecological needs, climate change, and other pressures. The nation needs more and improved water science and information to meet these challenges. In this report we review the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Resource Discipline (WRD), one of the nation’s foremost water science organizations. This report provides constructive advice to help the WRD meet the nation’s water needs over the coming decades. Our report is primarily directed to the leadership of the USGS WRD. However, many findings and recommendations also target the USGS leadership and the Department of Interior (DOI), because their support is necessary for the WRD to respond to the water needs of the nation.

The USGS, established in 1879, has historically been regarded as a primary source for scientific data to describe and understand Earth systems and provide assessments to facilitate the management of the nation’s resources. The WRD, one of four scientific disciplines within the USGS, fills this mission by assessing the quality and quantity of the nation’s surface water and groundwater. Since its conception, the WRD mission has remained “to provide reliable, impartial, timely information needed to understand the nation’s water resources”. With no regulatory or management responsibilities, the WRD is recognized as a source of unbiased hydrologic data and scientific information.

The Committee on Water Resources Activities at the U.S. Geological Survey, a committee of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council (NRC), was asked to carry out a review of the USGS WRD programs. The statement of task (SOT; Box 1-1) presents a



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Summary Water is our most fundamental natural resource, a resource that is lim- ited. Challenges to our nation’s water resources continue to grow, driven by population growth, ecological needs, climate change, and other pressures. The nation needs more and improved water science and information to meet these challenges. In this report we review the United States Geological Sur- vey’s (USGS) Water Resource Discipline (WRD), one of the nation’s fore- most water science organizations. This report provides constructive advice to help the WRD meet the nation’s water needs over the coming decades. Our report is primarily directed to the leadership of the USGS WRD. How- ever, many findings and recommendations also target the USGS leadership and the Department of Interior (DOI), because their support is necessary for the WRD to respond to the water needs of the nation. The USGS, established in 1879, has historically been regarded as a pri- mary source for scientific data to describe and understand Earth systems and provide assessments to facilitate the management of the nation’s resources. The WRD, one of four scientific disciplines within the USGS, fills this mis- sion by assessing the quality and quantity of the nation’s surface water and groundwater. Since its conception, the WRD mission has remained “to pro- vide reliable, impartial, timely information needed to understand the nation’s water resources”. With no regulatory or management responsibilities, the WRD is recognized as a source of unbiased hydrologic data and scientific information. The Committee on Water Resources Activities at the U.S. Geological Survey, a committee of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council (NRC), was asked to carry out a review of the USGS WRD programs. The statement of task (SOT; Box 1-1) presents a 1

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2 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future bipartite charge. The first is a performance review of the WRD, on top- ics ranging from leadership to cost-effectiveness. The second and more important undertaking was to look to the future, so we provide recom- mendations that will aid the USGS in being dynamically responsive to society’s pressing water resource needs. This Summary includes the ma- jor findings and recommendations of the committee. Additional conclu- sions and recommendations can be found in the individual chapters. The USGS WRD: A PERFORMANCE REVIEW Leadership The USGS can justly claim credit for past leadership in many areas of water science and technology. The USGS WRD was the major national employer of hydrologists in the first half of the 20th century. Since 1889, the USGS has operated a streamgaging program that evolved into The Na- tional Streamflow Information Program (NSIP). As new needs for stream- flow data emerged this program made real-time streamflow data widely available, a novel advancement. The WRD developed methods to measure and predict streamflow and sediment transport and the science of fluvial geomorphic systems, leading to the development of water science and flu- vial engineering in the United States. WRD scientists and engineers were leaders in developing the foundations of groundwater hydrology; they de- veloped approaches to understand the chemical and isotopic evolution of natural groundwater; and they pioneered the integration of field data with groundwater modeling. In the 1960s, the WRD established the interdisci- plinary National Research Program (NRP) to support pioneering hydro- logic research to help analyze and manage water resources and aquatic ecosystems. External stakeholders praised the WRD’s leadership and commit- ment to long-term data collection, fundamental to water science studies of other parties and critical to understanding the nation’s water resources. The committee and collaborating agencies both note that the USGS WRD provides leadership in very fundamental areas such as standardiz- ing data collection methods across the nation. A few examples discussed are:  Measurement technology, sampling protocols, and other stan- dard method development—The WRD standardized tools to assess fre- quency and magnitude of streamflow and field and laboratory methods for monitoring. The consistency of methods developed by the WRD

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Summary 3 promotes regional and national synthesis internally and among other en- tities.  Data collection and delivery—The USGS’s National Water Infor- mation System provides a comprehensive digital gateway to water data— both quantity and quality—at over 1.5 million sites throughout the nation and now provides real-time information for many sites. This has opened up many new and important applications for water data users.  WRD data and interpretive studies are used as key performance in- dicators by other agencies and institutions, such as USEPA, the Heinz Cen- ter, and the National Weather Service. WRD has used its unique position in the USGS, incorporating water, solid Earth, ecosystems, and geographical information systems to promote large-scale interdisciplinary assessments of water resources. Some examples include studies of how surface water and groundwater interact in the Florida Everglades and around Chesapeake Bay or how water circulation and sedi- ment deposition affect biological habitats in San Francisco Bay. Topical examples include:  National syntheses of nutrient, pesticide, and volatile organic com- pound occurrence,  National studies of emerging contaminants,  Groundwater-surface water interaction and its relationship with wa- ter quality and aquatic ecosystems,  Integration of biological assessments into water quality monitoring,  Sedimentation and fluvial geomorphology,  Development and technology transfer of groundwater flow and transport and geochemical models,  Watershed water-quality modeling. This legacy of leadership in addressing the nation’s key problems in wa- ter provides a rationale for a strong USGS presence in the water-science arena today and tomorrow. Coordination and Collaboration There are some 20 federal agencies with responsibilities in water man- agement and/or water science located both within the Department of Inte- rior (DOI) and across the government, hence, coordination is a necessity. In speaking to the committee, other USGS Disciplines, DOI agency part-

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4 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future ners, and external agencies praised the coordination and collaborative efforts of WRD as well as the importance of the WRD’s work to their own pro- grams. Developing interdisciplinary work in the last decade, the USGS WRD has been part of coordination within the USGS and DOI. There are funda- mental impediments to more cooperation of the Disciplines within the USGS, including that their offices are not co-located, and the Disciplines evolved with different missions and organizational structures, as well as dif- ferent clients. Yet many examples can be noted, including collaborations on hydrologic and ecologic science of the Platte and Missouri Rivers, the as- sessment of groundwater resources and earthquake hazards in the Los Ange- les basin, and the study of groundwater resources of the middle Rio Grande basin. The USGS WRD has done an admirable job of working to coordinate its activities with outside federal agencies to foster external collaboration, in the committee’s observations. The USGS provides a scientific and observa- tional foundation for many relevant national water programs run by other federal agencies. The WRD provides leadership in coordinating federal wa- ter activities through the Advisory Committee on Water Information and the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (under the National Sci- ence and Technology Council, Executive Office of the President), for exam- ple. One especially important example of coordination and collaboration is the hydrological science and streamflow observations that undergird flood watches and warnings provided by the National Weather Service’s (NWS) River Forecast Centers. The NWS and WRD closely coordinate the provi- sion of these products and services. The WRD also collaborates with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with examples of activities includ- ing co-sponsorship of the biennial National Monitoring Conference, joint work on the “National Hydrography Dataset Plus,” and extensive work on water quality and emerging contaminants. EPA uses WRD monitoring data as part of their own performance measures. Another recent example is WRD’s collaboration with multiple federal, state, and local entities to ad- dress complex water management issues in the San Pedro, Arizona area, including the growing issue of competition for water between public water supply and ecosystem needs. Program Balance The SOT poses questions about WRD program planning, goals, and balance. The WRD program areas and balance measures are based on

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Summary 5 funding, and derived from a WRD Strategic Directions plan, and individ- ual program plans, that are nearly a decade old. Producing a list of basic program accomplishments that address these past program goals and bal- ance would not be particularly useful. Also, the USGS has a new strategic plan Facing tomorrow’s Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey science in the decade 2007-2017 which will presumably drive development over the coming years. The committee considered reviewing the WRD budget by categories defined in the Strategic Directions plan, but the USGS has in- troduced a new budget system which made that impractical. With that per- spective, we offer this recommendation: In the past, the USGS WRD program balance was assessed through the Strategic Directions plan (USGS, 1999; see Box 2-5). If it is judged important for the USGS, DOI, or OMB to review program balance by these particular metrics, the budget system should be ad- justed to accommodate such summaries. In the committee’s view the primary issue to address is not program balance of the past; instead, we suggest looking ahead. Future planning needs to balance program goals with a coherent view of how each ad- vances the national understanding of major water problems. Cost Effectiveness Addressing the cost-effectiveness of a program such as the WRD is dif- ficult. There are not well-defined metrics to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of their scientific and intellectual programs. A recent NRC report (NRC, 2008) found that Office of Management and Budget did not use or accept the same type of metrics for all federal agencies for similar problems, such as “research efficiency.” The NRC report recommended that expert panels be used to evaluate the performance of such programs. We assessed whether the WRD programs are “well-managed and conducted in a cost- effective manner” based on our best professional judgment, as an expert panel, and various semi-quantitative measures. We looked at indicators of product demand, efforts to optimize field programs, and the use of expert panels, as the NRC recommended to OMB. We begin with “product demand.” The testimony from other agencies and stakeholders regarding the demand for WRD data may be viewed as one indicator of cost-effectiveness. The only area of the WRD budget that has increased since 1990 is state and local contributions to the Cooperative

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6 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future Water Program, further highlighting demand for WRD products. Even amidst cost concerns, cooperators note that they need the quality and inde- pendence of the USGS products; independent monitoring and data analy- ses are vital to provide unbiased input to their management programs and for “government performance and review.” In a related example, the Na- tional Hydrologic Warning Council noted nine points of how the streamgag- ing program was “beneficial to society.” In addition, NWIS averages 30-40 million downloads per month; the WRD’s MODFLOW is one of the most widely used groundwater flow models worldwide, more than 23,000 copies of MODFLOW were downloaded from the USGS web site over the past decade. The WRD has put substantive effort into optimizing its human and fi- nancial resources in past years. The WRD streamgaging network has un- dergone numerous assessments (based on statistical optimization tech- niques) to evaluate which gages could be abandoned with the least loss of hydrologic data to meet regional and national needs. A prior NRC review of the NAWQA program (NRC, 2002) found that, despite the significant reduction in study units for Cycle II that NAWQA could still maintain good coverage of the nation’s streams and groundwater resources, because of the commendable, rigorous planning effort that the WRD management team employed. In both cases, however, some of this optimization was in response to shrinking budgets, and some substantive national coverage was lost in these reductions. The NRC review noted, for example, that “NAWQA cannot continue to be downsized and still be considered the national water quality assessment that the nation needs.” The WRD has an excellent record of utilizing external, independent expert panels to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs. The NRC’s standing Committee on USGS Water Resources Research has conducted studies that have reviewed essentially every WRD program over the last two decades. WRD has also engaged others in program reviews including the National Hydrologic Warning Council, the Advisory Committee on Water Information, and Interstate Council on Water Policy. In summary, we find that the WRD has shown effective leadership in water science and that the WRD is managed in a cost-effective manner. The WRD has done a good job fostering internal cooperation, external col- laboration, and coordination. Our performance review shows that the USGS WRD is well-positioned to add value to water resource challenges both in the present and future.

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Summary 7 PREPARING FOR TOMORROW Water Resource Trends—“Predictable Surprises” Await To provide the context to look toward the future, we discuss some of the water resources problems the USGS WRD will face. Trends of increas- ing stress on water resources form “predictable surprises”—problems that are becoming recognized but require action, (they will not resolve them- selves).  Problems of water availability will become increasingly more seri- ous and prominent. With a projected population increase of 50 percent by 2050 in the United States, population demands on water will grow and be- come regionally acute. Even in the humid southeast, Georgia struggles to manage water for its growing metropolitan areas, and coastal cities through- out the country face salt water intrusion problems. The areas of greatest population growth are where water withdrawals are already unsustainable— the west, southwest, and coastal regions. Further exacerbating this problem is the link between water and energy—both key components to societal health.  Climate change will make water resource challenges more diffi- cult. Estimates of future climate change project greater environmental variability that will likely catalyze changes in the frequency and magnitude of floods and droughts. Changes in the hydrologic cycle will have eco- nomic effects, as have been documented in the past. New tools will be needed to forecast, design, and manage water resources and infrastructure that is sensitive to these environmental changes.  Water quality impairments will continue to demand innovative sci- ence. Water availability is limited by water quality. While some compo- nents of water quality have improved in the U.S., with various environ- mental regulatory programs, there still are growing issues such as non- point source pollution and emerging contaminants.  Water prices will rise. Water users in the U.S. pay less for their water than most other developed countries. With the need to repair aging infrastructure, increased competition for water, the need for restoration of ecosystem values, and increases in energy costs, prices will rise which will have other societal impacts.  Resolving water conflicts and policy debates will demand more water science. Water policy debates will continue to occur at all levels of government, and between our nation and its neighbors. The debate will include arguments about transboundary issues, ecosystem versus other

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8 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future societal needs, the impact of rising water prices, and the effect of climate variability on water resources. Amidst policy debates water resource deci- sions will be made. But will they be adequately informed to meet the coming uncertainties and constraints that society will face? To effectively manage evolving water trends, new science, more data, and new ap- proaches will be needed to develop adaptive management strategies. WRD Planning, Priorities, and Stakeholders The WRD, like all federal agencies, has a “top-down” component of management where broad national priorities are set by the Washington level management with input from national stakeholders. The WRD also has a unique and important “bottom-up” component to its planning process with Science Centers in every state. The Science Centers operate with di- rect input from state and local stakeholders, providing insights to local wa- ter issues and identifying new and emerging issues. Appropriate issues then surface to the regional and national level and become incorporated into “top-down” programmatic thrusts. This mix of top-down and bottom- up input to management and priority setting has served the USGS well. However, the committee is concerned that the balance between national priorities and local needs has become skewed as a result of budgetary is- sues. WRD Budget and Staffing The SOT asks questions that require understanding of the operational and budgetary climate within which the WRD is operating, and recom- mendations for future directions should be viewed within this context. The WRD budget trend over the past 16 years is flat or slightly downward. The only major component that has risen since 1990 is the state and local funding for the Cooperative Water Program (Coop program). There is a growing wedge of disparity between cooperator and federal contributions to the Coop program, from a 1:1 ratio in 1990 to almost a 2:1 ratio in 2006. The increase in funding provided by state and local cooperators may be an encouraging measure of WRD product demand by supporters. However, this trend raises some concern about the balance between national/regional and local/state priorities in the Coop program and the ability of the Science Centers to address regional and national priorities.

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Summary 9 WRD staffing, both science and non-science employees, has declined by one-third since 1993 as a result of flat-to-declining budgets and man- dated salary increases and promotions. NRP research hydrology staff has been reduced by 30 percent while WRD headquarters staff has been re- duced by 60 percent. Amidst the overall decline in staff, there has been an increase in research grade hydrologists in Science Centers. This increase was largely the result of a shift in positions; resulting in a net decrease in research positions and a de-centralization of the WRD research capacity. The redistribution of research grade staff has promoted a higher level of science in the field offices but possibly to the detriment of the NRP. The percentage of non-hydrologists employed has increased, reflecting the in- creasingly interdisciplinary challenges faced by WRD. Coupled with these large reductions in staff there have been limited new hires, resulting in an aging workforce, particularly in the NRP where the modal age is now 51- 60 years old. The USGS, even with these budgetary and staffing reductions, has a large number of experienced water scientists and technicians. They stand on a long tradition of studying the impact of human activities on water re- sources and ecosystems. Whether society can manage water resources sustainably in light of the growing interdisciplinary issues such as popula- tion growth, wealth production, ecosystem needs, and climatic uncertainty, has become the signature environmental issue of our age. The USGS WRD is well suited to play a critical leadership role in a national strategy for water resource management. WATER FOR TOMORROW Leadership The USGS WRD has provided leadership to the nation in water sci- ence, and while that leadership continues, it has lost ground. The WRD is stretched too thin—it cannot address all water resources issues particularly given the current budgetary climate. The WRD and USGS have the range and quality of scientific resources to take the lead in providing the interdis- ciplinary understanding required to address many of our pressing water problems. But it needs to re-focus its vision concentrating on its strengths to address not all, but the critical, water challenges facing the nation. The WRD should re-focus its vision on critical national priorities to lead the nation in water science. This vision should bring their data

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10 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future acquisition arm, science and interpretive programs, and research arm to a common focus on key national priorities. The USGS Strategic Science Directions The new USGS strategic plan, Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges—U.S. Geological Survey science in the decade 2007-2017, outlines the agency’s plans to move into the future, identifying six strategic directions. While the committee did not do an in-depth evaluation of this plan, we do concur with the importance of the national issues outlined and agree that the USGS has the skilled personnel to address these issues. The strategy notes “[The USGS’s] role is larger than the traditional one of providing expertise in mapping, geology, water, and biology. … The USGS should transform its approaches to problem solving not only to address the issues of today but also to prepare for those of tomorrow.” We concur and put our recom- mendations in the context that the WRD focus on the problems society will face in the coming decades. Water science is a key component in each of the six USGS directions, demonstrating the necessity of an integrated strategy. By integrated we mean ensuring that all the WRD programs understand the component contributions they must make to answer critical national ques- tions. There are two dominant themes of the plan that can relate to all areas of water availability—climate variability and change and a water census. The WRD needs to clearly redefine its role within the context of the USGS strategic science directions and its vision of critical national wa- ter priorities. This redefinition should highlight the WRD’s role in the USGS strategic science directions and within an integrated strategy and pro- grammatic approach to address their defined national water priorities, em- phasizing scientific support for decisions that society will need to make in the coming decades. This approach should include two key issues of water availability—the water census and climate variability and change—partic- ularly forecasting and predictions, evaluating uncertainty, and developing enhanced monitoring systems to assess the nature of the problem with re- spect to water resources. A Water Census of the United States: Quantifying, Forecasting, and Securing Fresh Water for America’s Future The Water Census (strategic science direction number six) is an initia- tive already in development, and can be used to illustrate the committee’s

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Summary 11 recommendations. The Census is a needed and worthy activity, especially considering its subtitle to “quantify, forecast and secure fresh water for America’s future.” The Water Census needs to plan for establishing an on- going accounting of water availability in a program on par with the social and economic censuses that support national decision-making. There is little value in developing a sparse, simplistic accounting system, while there is relevance in building a dynamic Water Census. This would involve many efforts that go beyond the current scope of the USGS programs, efforts that are discussed and recommended in this report, such as:  Coordination and Collaboration with External Agencies. It will be critical to build and extend consensus and cooperation among fed- eral and non-federal agencies involved in water resources management. This must include collaboration on innovative data collection conducted by other agencies as well as new science.  New Approaches and New Water Science. The USGS WRD will have to expand hydrologic analysis to develop new science—new ap- proaches to its analysis. We concur with the NRC committee on the Na- tional Water-Use Information Program that recommended: “The NWUIP should be viewed as much more than a data-collection and database man- agement program. The NWUIP should be elevated to a water-use science program, emphasizing applied research and techniques development in the statistical estimation of water use, as well as the determinants and impacts of water using behaviors.”  Forecasting with Uncertainty. Forecasting and predictions of water availability that identify and quantify uncertainty over time are criti- cal for decision makers. Programs need to support interpretive activities for syntheses, forecasting, and predictions to address regional and national priorities.  Definition of a Comprehensive, Integrated Long-Range Water Census Strategy. The Water Census should become more than uncon- nected water indices. Similar to the way that prediction skills have been gradually been built into and improved for weather or economic forecast- ing, a strategy should incrementally elaborate the Water Census.  New Resources. An effective, dynamic Water Census cannot simply be grafted on to current USGS activities. Such efforts will require more focused leadership and organizational approaches than in the past coupled with adequate resources. Clearly, at a national level, the need for a Water Census is now recognized and advanced, not only by the USGS but by the interagency NSTC and Congressional committees.

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12 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future Strategic Approaches To focus on key national problems in an integrated way requires hard decisions about how programs like the Water Census are developed and integrated across the WRD. This will require active management, devel- opment of common strategic questions and a common intellectual approach. Priorities should be promoted aggressively at the highest level of leadership, managed at this level to ensure implementation, using teams capable of making important scientific contributions of national and international rele- vance. Overall, the single most important trait that WRD management will need to demonstrate in the next decade is willingness to actively lead the agency’s scientists in the new directions required by the nation’s needs. The USGS and WRD leadership should refocus their vision to de- fine the national water priorities that they will address and develop a management approach to integrate the WRD programs to meet these needs and lead the nation in water science. Pressing national issues will require integration of WRD programs, from the Groundwater Resources Program, to NAWQA, and NSIP, the NRP and the Coop program. While many of the WRD programs have line-item budgets and defined missions, they can still be integrated to address ques- tions that address key components of water priorities. Many of these na- tional issues will also require new science, thus the approach to integrate WRD’s focus on national priorities must also better leverage the science and technical prowess of the NRP and the operational capabilities within the Sci- ence Centers. Two difficult challenges, in the committee’s observations, will be to define and manage the role of the NRP and the Coop Program and Sci- ence Centers in these programs. The National Research Program With the decline in the number of scientists, the aging of its workforce, and the decentralization of research capacity, the NRP has lost some meas- ure of its scientific leadership. The NRP needs to play a renewed, signifi- cant role and have the flexibility to refocus on significant water science. This may require refocusing its operations to redirect its talent and re- sources to address new and emerging national priorities.

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Summary 13 To meet the nation’s water science needs, the WRD’s National Re- search Program should be aligned around its refocused vision of na- tional program priorities. The USGS should also revisit its review and reward system for re- search grade personnel which should ensure that priorities for career ad- vancement are aligned with agency and national priorities. It should pro- vide incentive for team-oriented work, and substantive contribution to and leadership of projects that address critical national priorities. The Cooperative Water Program and Science Centers There needs to be improved alignment of the Coop program and the Science Centers to address regional and national priorities. New science needed to address national water problems often must be tested and tailored to the wide range of climatic, hydrologic, cultural, and industrial-economic conditions that exist throughout the United States. The presence of the Sci- ence Centers and Coop program in every state is an important resource to accomplish this and to contribute to regional and national objectives if pro- jects are coordinated to do so. The WRD’s Cooperative Water Program needs to be better inte- grated with the WRD’s focused vision of regional and national water program priorities. The WRD is encouraged to develop a process for de- fining national merit for Coop projects as a means of balancing Coop pro- gram commitments with meeting regional and national priorities. National and regional priorities need to help shape these programs; na- tional programs cannot simply be a collection of Science Center projects. WRD has good models for integrating local efforts into regional and national programs. This must be done with care, considering state needs; as WRD focuses more on regional and national-scale problems, it is important that the best aspects of their contributions to local problems not be undermined or abandoned. This may involve establishing flexible means for temporarily shifting funding and associated staff to follow projects with the most na- tional merit. While states have the authority to manage their water resources, con- flicts among states, with or without interstate compacts, are becoming more prevalent and challenging. Another goal for the USGS and its Science Cen- ters could be to minimize the potential for states’ disagreement on the extent and characteristics of their shared water resources. A commitment to this

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14 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future responsibility fits well with the USGS interest to “understand the nation’s water resources.” Science Center research grade scientists will need to be considered for integration in project teams coordinated around the national strategic direc- tions. This may require flexibility in being able to assign research grade staff in one Science Center to work temporarily on a team for another Sci- ence Center. Hence, some of the same issues discussed for realignment of NRP staff may apply to the research grade staff in the Science Centers. The USGS WRD should involve all research grade personnel in staffing teams to address regional and national research priorities, regardless of location, to increase the agency’s flexibility. Concluding Remarks The USGS WRD has a history of distinguished service to the nation. Despite the declining resources and staff reductions, the WRD has made adjustments to continue its role as a national leader, particularly related to water quality and water availability. But to adequately address the nation’s growing water science needs, the WRD and USGS leadership will need to provide a more focused vision of the national water priorities that they will address and a management approach to integrate WRD programs and the interdisciplinary character of the USGS. The committee advocates a more targeted selection of water science projects that address critical national needs. Programs and projects should be integrated at a high level with teams capable of making important scien- tific contributions. The approach should better leverage the interdiscipli- nary science and technical prowess of the NRP with the operational capa- bilities found within the Science Centers. Interpretive activities will need to better focus on regional and national syntheses and forecasting and pre- dictions to address national priorities. To successfully meet the water and energy challenges the United States is facing the USGS will need to pro- vide new and improved water science. As stated in the USGS 2007 strate- gic plan—“The USGS must transform its approaches to problem solving not only to address the issues of today but also to prepare for those of to- morrow.” The sharper focus on critical priorities described in our report will help to address these problems, but to adequately meet the challenge will clearly require new and additional resources. To ensure a secure water future for the nation, sufficient funding should be provided for the USGS to perform its function as a major

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Summary 15 science agency: to ensure high quality data collection, interpretive programs, and development of essential forecasting and predictive tools to support effective management of the nation’s critical water resources.