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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review

A performance review can provide context for the WRD’s ability to meet the nation’s future water science needs. The statement of task (SOT) asks the committee to review various aspects of the USGS WRD’s performance related to such topics as leadership in water science, coordination with other agencies, and balance and cost-effectiveness of programs. These past performance issues are addressed in this chapter.

LEADERSHIP

In the formative years of water science in the first half of the 20th Century, the USGS was the major national employer of hydrologists. The agency 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 fluvial engineering in the United States. Scientists and engineers in the USGS also were leaders in developing the foundations of groundwater hydrology. USGS scientists did the first integrated studies of the hydraulics associated with aquitards and confining beds, related how aquifers respond to aquifer stresses and land subsidence, and how water overpressuring may induce earthquakes. They developed approaches and methods to understand the chemical and isotopic evolution of natural groundwater, salt-water intrusion; and they pioneered the integration of field data with groundwater modeling.

Since 1889, the USGS has operated a streamgaging program. The National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP), as it is now known, evolved as new needs for streamflow data emerged and new technologies for data collection, analysis, and dissemination were developed, including the



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2 The USGS WRD: A Performance Review A performance review can provide context for the WRD’s ability to meet the nation’s future water science needs. The statement of task (SOT) asks the committee to review various aspects of the USGS WRD’s per- formance related to such topics as leadership in water science, coordina- tion with other agencies, and balance and cost-effectiveness of programs. These past performance issues are addressed in this chapter. LEADERSHIP In the formative years of water science in the first half of the 20th Cen- tury, the USGS was the major national employer of hydrologists. The agency developed methods to measure and predict streamflow and sedi- ment transport and the science of fluvial geomorphic systems, leading to the development of water science and fluvial engineering in the United States. Scientists and engineers in the USGS also were leaders in develop- ing the foundations of groundwater hydrology. USGS scientists did the first integrated studies of the hydraulics associated with aquitards and con- fining beds, related how aquifers respond to aquifer stresses and land sub- sidence, and how water overpressuring may induce earthquakes. They developed approaches and methods to understand the chemical and iso- topic evolution of natural groundwater, salt-water intrusion; and they pio- neered the integration of field data with groundwater modeling. Since 1889, the USGS has operated a streamgaging program. The Na- tional Streamflow Information Program (NSIP), as it is now known, evolved as new needs for streamflow data emerged and new technologies for data collection, analysis, and dissemination were developed, including the 22

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 23 recent advancement of making real time streamflow data widely available (waterdata.usgs.gov). Currently, the USGS has an extensive network of over 7,000 gages, and streamgaging is probably its most broadly supported pro- gram. Most stakeholders and collaborating agencies consistently cite the commitment to long term hydrologic record keeping through the WRD’s streamgaging program as a key leadership element and an important compo- nent of the WRD’s charge to provide hydrologic data. In the 1960s, the WRD leadership further evolved when the WRD estab- lished the uniquely interdisciplinary National Research Program (NRP) that pioneered scientific hydrology as an Earth science to analyze and manage wa- ter resources and aquatic ecosystems. Today, the NRP remains a powerful and unique resource. WRD has used its position within the interdisciplinary USGS, incorporating water, solid Earth, ecosystems, and geographical infor- mation systems to promote large-scale interdisciplinary assessments of water resource-related topics. Examples include how surface water and groundwa- ter interact in the Florida Everglades and around Chesapeake Bay; how water circulation and sediment deposition affects biological habitats in San Fran- cisco Bay; how sediment delivery and crustal subsidence affects the sustain- ability of the Mississippi Delta; and how flood and sedimentation hazards evolve around active volcanoes. Water science—including water management—has become a major field of practice. Specialists from academia, the private sector, state and local agen- cies, and some 20 federal agencies have missions related to water science and management. In contrast to the USGS, many other agencies have distinct statutory and legal authority for selected water resources issues and problems. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains river navigation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has statutory influence over much of the nation’s water quality. Yet, within this context the USGS still shows national leadership in hydrologic science and is considered by many water resource users to be the nation’s principal water science agency. Various examples are summarized below. During the committee’s information gathering efforts and deliberations, collaborating and cooperating agencies praised the USGS for its efforts. WRD data collection programs were noted as essential to other agency water resources related missions. The quality and integrity of USGS data, and its status as an independent agency, give its data greater credibility compared to that collected by regulatory agencies with a perceived vested interest. Ex- ternal stakeholders praised the WRD’s leadership and commitment to long-term data collection, which are fundamental to the water science studies of many other parties and critical to understanding and managing the nation’s water resources. The committee and collaborating agencies

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24 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future both note that the USGS WRD provides leadership by standardizing data collection methods across the nation among federal, state and local agen- cies, and in the private sector. Some examples follow:  Measurement technology, sampling protocols, and other stan- dard method development—The WRD standardized the analytical tools used to assess frequency and magnitude of streamflow, and these ap- proaches are used by water managers throughout the nation. The USGS leads in field and laboratory method development for water analysis and monitoring for dissolved substances, ranging from heavy metals to pesti- cides to emerging contaminants. USGS scientists have worked with other federal and state agencies and partners to standardize these analyti- cal protocols to share data and improve cost-effectiveness. Regional and national syntheses of data collected by various agencies are possible be- cause of the consistency of methods developed and promoted by WRD.  Data collection and delivery—The USGS’s National Water Infor- mation System (NWISWeb; http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/) provides a comprehensive digital gateway to groundwater and surface water-resource data—both quantity and quality—at over 1.5 million sites in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. NWIS now handles about 25 million requests per month. Although the USGS has struggled to keep the system current with rapidly advancing database technology, it is truly a world leader in making large volumes of water data, some of it 100 years old, freely available to users as diverse as researchers, flood forecasters, drought man- agers, water planners, regulators, and recreationists, such as canoeists. Most of the current NWISWeb sites provide real-time information, depicting graphics and maps of real-time streamflow compared to historical stream- flow for the day of the year (http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/). This has opened up many new and important applications for water data users.  WRD data and interpretive studies used as key performance in- dicators by other agencies and institutions—USGS water data are used as metrics: in USEPA’s Report on the Environment (e.g., USEPA, 2008) to the Congress and the nation; in the multi-agency, public-private sector collaborative evaluation of the State of The Nation’s Ecosystems 2008 (Heinz Center, 2008); and in international reviews of water issues (e.g., Global Water Research Coalition, 2004). WRD data are integral to more formal “Program Assessment Rating Tool” (PART) measures of other agencies (e.g., USEPA for several water-quality measures and the Na- tional Weather Service related to flood hazard warnings) used by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. On the down side, the Heinz Center notes that the long term integrity of USGS water related data for as many

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 25 as 25 national environmental indicators will be affected because USGS (WRD and the Geography Discipline) will be unable to provide consis- tent data because of budget cuts. Collaborators and cooperators valued WRD interpretive studies for their science and unbiased execution. Examples cited often illustrate the multidisciplinary science that WRD can apply to problems, their capabil- ity to mobilize and address regional and national issues in a consistent framework their modeling technology and technology transfer. Some areas of note are:  National syntheses of nutrient, pesticide, and volatile organic com- pound occurrence— their relationship to natural processes and human ac- tivities. The USGS’s National Water-Quality Assessment program (NAWQA) led the way to an ongoing critical and relevant national assess- ment of the quality of the nation’s waters including trends and causes of change. NAWQA’s national syntheses have provided unique insights on the unexpected frequency of pesticides in urban streams, the occurrence of gaso- line oxygenates, and identified decreases in phosphorus loading related to Clean Water Act control programs (e.g., NRC, 2002a). But, NAWQA can- not continue to be downsized because of budget reductions and still remain a national water quality assessment program (NRC, 2002a).  Emerging contaminants—The USGS leads the nation in identify- ing, tracking, and doing research on newly identified synthetic or naturally occurring pollutants; chemical or microbial (Kolpin et al., 2002; Focazio et al., 2008). Its national investigations of the occurrence of these emerging contaminants produced one of the highest cited papers in the journal, Envi- ronmental Science and Technology (Kolpin et al., 2002), that was also noted as one of the Top 100 Science Stories of the Year by Discover maga- zine. The USGS continues to work on improved analytical methods to detect and measure these emerging contaminant compounds, characterize their sources, and evaluate their ecological effects.  Groundwater-surface water interaction and its relationship with water quality and aquatic ecosystems. The USGS leads the nation in stud- ies of groundwater-surface water interactions associated with rivers, lakes, and wetlands. One product of this effort, USGS Circular 1139 (Winter et al., 1998), a review of surface water and groundwater interaction, has sold 50,000 copies. Recent studies cover a wide breadth of activities including how groundwater recharge occurs under ephemeral streams in the arid Southwest (Constantz et al., 2007), how to use heat and specific conduc- tance as groundwater tracers near streams (Cox et al., 2007), and circum-

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26 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future boreal wetlands affected by seasonal freeze and thaw cycles (McKenzie et al., 2007). USGS hydrologists, geologists, geochemists, and ecologists from three regional USGS offices do research on the complex physical, chemical, and biological interactions among lakes, wetlands, streams in the Shingobee Headwaters Aquatic Ecosystems Project (SHAEP) in northern Minnesota. This research site, also used by academic collaborators, has become a model for multidisciplinary studies on lake-stream-groundwater interaction.  Integration of biological assessments into water quality monitor- ing—The USGS through NAWQA and other programs has begun inte- grating biological assessments, including microbiological and pathogen monitoring, with traditional physical and chemical measurements. Re- search in this new program already has led to improved understanding of the ecological effects of urbanization (Coles et al., 2004). NAWQA Cy- cle I studies suggested a threshold response to ecological impacts that could have significant impacts on water management and restoration programs.  Sedimentation and fluvial geomorphology—The WRD has the na- tion’s largest database of information on sediment characteristics, sediment transport, and river channel form and behavior (http://water.usgs.gov/ nrp/). Assessments by USEPA and the states show that sediment remains the primary cause of impairment in the nation’s streams and rivers and more needs to be done to make use of this USGS knowledge and scientific talent. Various reports from the NRC (2002a, 2004a, b, and 2007) have noted the growing decline in these capabilities.  Development and technology transfer of groundwater flow and transport and geochemical models—For decades, the USGS has provided high quality hydrologic and geochemical computer applications to the na- tion and scientific public free of charge (http://water.usgs.gov/ software/). Some examples of these USGS models in the public domain include the three-dimensional groundwater modeling code MODFLOW which is one of the most commonly used groundwater flow models worldwide, the 3-D multiphase water and heat flow numerical codes HYDROTHERM and SUTRA are widely used for variable-density problems such as salt-water intrusion. PHREEQC is probably the most commonly used model for un- derstanding rock-water interactions. Others have developed more sophis- ticated models for research and more specialized purposes, but models such as MODFLOW have become the standard for many applications.  Watershed water-quality modeling—The SPAtially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes (SPARROW) model is an important watershed-scale modeling tool and is becoming an important support tool

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 27 for the states and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) total maxi- mum daily load (TMDL) programs. SPARROW incorporates in-stream water-quality measurements with spatially referenced characteristics of watersheds, including contaminant sources and factors influencing terres- trial and stream transport. USGS WRD scientists using SPARROW have made substantive contributions to the understanding of nutrient sources and transport in the Mississippi River system related to concerns with the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia (Alexander, et al., 2008). The ability of the model to quantitatively evaluate the origin and possible fate of contami- nants in streams has opened up a new way to investigate watersheds. The science done by USGS WRD scientists and engineers, represented in these and other examples, receives major professional recognition in the scientific community. USGS scientists are awarded about half of the O. E. Meinzer awards of the Geological Society of America that recognizes au- thors of publications that have “significantly advanced the science of hydrogeology...” (see http://gsahydro.eas.ualberta.ca/OEMeinzer.htm for a list of recipients). In a recent analysis of the 200 most-cited papers pub- lished in the journal Water Resources Research, approximately 10 percent were written by USGS authors (http:///water. usgs.gov/dispatch/2008/wrr- pubilcations.html). These 200 papers were among more than 6,500 papers published between 1975 and 2001; the citations were from the period 1996-2007. These papers were noted for their in-depth contribution to the progress and practice of hydrologic science. COORDINATION AND COOPERATION The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) does not operate in an institu- tional vacuum. There are some 20 federal agencies with responsibilities in water management and/or water science located both within the Depart- ment of Interior (DOI) and across the government. Hence, coordination of water program activities is not just a “nicety,” it is a necessity. Many of these agencies roles are defined narrowly in the context of their regulatory functions and/or management responsibilities for water in specific regions. The USGS provides a scientific and observational foundation for many relevant national water programs run by these other federal agencies. The committee evaluated the degree to which the Water Resource Discipline (WRD) collaborates with other USGS disciplines and works together with other federal bureaus and agencies to answer SOT question 7: Are USGS water activities coordinated well among other USGS programs, and

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28 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future among federal agencies? Are there areas in which interactions and co- ordination could be improved? Beyond “coordination” of programs, as exemplary as that can be, the committee was also looking for evidence of cooperation and collaboration—programs where the WRD and other dis- ciplines and agencies were working together toward common goals, in a common intellectual effort. In testimony before the committee, other Disciplines within USGS, DOI agency partners, and other external agencies praised the coordination and collaborative efforts of WRD as well as the importance of the WRD’s work relative to their own programs. Virtually all agencies recognize the need for more data, information, and coordination from WRD to meet the water resource challenges facing the nation. Some of these other agencies’ have noted the WRD’s leadership in coordinating federal water activities through the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) and the Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ, under the Na- tional Science and Technology Council, Executive Office of the President). External evaluators frequently recommend more cooperation and col- laboration within and between federal agencies. However, such activities are not as simple as they often appear to outsiders. There are costs in- volved, because it takes staff time to affect cooperative efforts, and often considerable time to maintain communications among different parties. Some difficulties are incurred partly because of either the overlap or dif- ferences in agency missions resulting in turf-battles and even conflicts of interest that must be resolved. While keeping these constraints in mind, the committee presents and discusses examples of coordination within the USGS and then continues with a discussion and examples of cooperative efforts between the USGS and other agencies. Coordination with Other USGS Disciplines Overall, the WRD has been part of an encouraging trend with respect to collaboration within the USGS and within the DOI; the last decade has brought a distinct emphasis on interdisciplinary work at the Survey. In- terdisciplinary programs at the USGS can be driven by individuals or small teams of investigators, often from the National Research Program (NRP) or collaborators in the Geologic Discipline, for example. Other programs may be driven by management, from the top-down, in response to either internal assessments of critical issues or external mandates, for example, the National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). Finally, interdisciplinary programs can be customer-driven by manage-

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 29 ment agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, or a local agency (see Boxes 2-1 and 2-2), or as part of multiagency regional efforts such as the Everglades (NRC, 2007, and next section) and Chesapeake Bay restoration (http:// chesapeake.usgs.gov/). There are various examples of success in these collaborative efforts. Those described in Boxes 2-1 and 2-2 were feasible because of multidisci- plinary cooperation. There are also a number of river science collabora- tions (NRC, 2007), including:  Developing successful strategies to sustain or rehabilitate the ri- parian ecosystem of the central Platte River through an understanding of the linkages among hydrology, river morphology, biological communities, and ecosystem processes; and  The Long Term Resource Monitoring Program along the Upper Mississippi River System, which incorporates data on fisheries, macroin- vertebrates, vegetation, water quality, land cover, bathymetry, sedimenta- tion, water levels and discharge, and wildlife. The regional offices, which coordinate most USGS activities in their respective regions, are working to better knit the disciplines together and have had some success. For example, at a state level, the Alaska Science Center and Florida Integrated Science Center are experiments in the inte- gration of biological, geological, geographic, and water science. Such ef- forts should continue, to the extent they are cost-effective and realistic to manage. However, there are institutional obstacles within the USGS that im- pede collaboration among the Disciplines. One fundamental factor is the lack of co-location of their scientists (NRC, 2001b; NRC 2007). Most Ge- ology Discipline scientists are in Reston, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Menlo Park, California; while many Geography Discipline scientists are at the Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota or the Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center in Rolla, Missouri. WRD scientists are located at these regional centers but also in 48 water Science Centers throughout the country. And most of the Biological Resources Discipline scientists are located at 18 science and technology centers and, to a lesser extent, in cooperative research units at 40 universities around the country. This physical separation does not encourage frequent, informal discussions that often lead to interdisci- plinary projects.

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30 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future BOX 2-1 Groundwater Resources and Earthquake Hazards in the Los Angeles Basin Periodic earthquakes and omnipresent water scarcity are two of the greatest challenges faced by Greater Los Angeles. Groundwater from the Los Angeles Basin supplies much of the drinking water for the area. As part of a cooperative project with the Water Replenishment District of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to map the faults and the strata of the basin, the USGS drilled more than 30 monitoring wells. Scientists from the Geology Discipline and WRD were involved. They examined issues such as the rates of recharge of water infiltrated into groundwater from spread- ing ponds, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers along the coast. The project resulted in new interpretations of the basin, including the rec- ognition of ongoing tectonic deformation throughout most of the past several million years that has impacted the geometry and character of the sediments. These faults provide potential pathways for vertical migration of seawater and surface contaminants into the producing aquifers. This new framework should prove valuable in the design and operation of aquifer recharge projects, improve operations of seawater barriers, and identify areas of aquifer vulnerability. Overall, these efforts provided crucial information for sustainably managing the area’s groundwater supply while also locating areas especially susceptible to earthquake shaking. SOURCE: USGS Fact Sheet 086-02. Available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/ fs/2002/fs086-02/. It is important to note that the USGS Disciplines evolved somewhat separately with different missions and organizational structures, as well as different clients. Therefore it is unrealistic to expect full integration of the various Disciplines. Full integration refers to the idea that you might make water resources or some central theme “the organizing principle for everything.” However, one cannot reorganize the federal government to align each agency with every priority; hence entities must learn the arts of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration on complex objectives over a sustained period of years.

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 31 BOX 2-2 Groundwater Resources of the Middle Rio Grande Basin The Middle Rio Grande Basin Study was a six-year effort (1995-2001) by USGS and other agencies to improve the understanding of the hydrology, geol- ogy, and land-surface characteristics of the Middle Rio Grande Basin to provide the scientific information needed for water-resources management. The basin previously had been declared a “critical basin” by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer; it provides water for about 700,000 people in the City of Albu- querque and surrounding communities. Geologists, hydrologists, geophysicists, geochemists, and geographers from federal, state, and local agencies were all involved in the project. The goal of the study was to improve the scientific un- derstanding of the hydrologic system and its relationships with geology and land use in the region as a foundation for water-management policy. Surface, airborne, and borehole-geophysics played a major role in improv- ing understanding of the geologic framework of the aquifer system. They were used to help define the boundaries of the aquifer system, faults, and areas under- lain by more permeable materials. This information was used in the construc- tion of a three-dimensional groundwater flow model of the basin. The study results were highly important, in that they showed that the aquifer is less connected to the Rio Grande and overall receives less recharge than pre- viously believed. This would tend to decrease the sustainable yield of the aqui- fer. Further, parts of the aquifer system were found to have lower than expected permeability, which suggests areas that would locally yield less water through wells. Many faults were also found cross-cutting the sediments. SOURCE: USGS Circular 1222. Available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/ 2002/circ1222/. Coordination and Collaboration with Other Agencies In the committee’s observations, and from dialogue with other agen- cies, the WRD has done an admirable job of working to coordinate its activities with other federal agencies—both directly with the agencies and through WRD’s leadership in various federal coordinating bodies such as ACWI and SWAQ. The USGS develops and maintains the scien- tific and observational foundation for many critical national services that are provided by other federal agencies, including the National Park Ser-

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32 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future vice, Bureau of Reclamation (and other Interior Department agencies), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Weather Service—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These are important functions and services that USGS provides to the nation and to these other agencies, and on balance WRD provides more effort to facilitate coordination, and actual collaboration than some of its partner agencies, from our observations. Because of the WRD’s mission and reach, it also is involved in the co- ordination of many regional water issues such as ecological restoration efforts in Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades (discussed further below) or the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia work groups. The following sections provide a few examples where the USGS is fulfilling its role in providing scientific data, information, and analysis in coordination with other agencies to de- velop solutions to regional or national problems. Real-time Streamflow Information for National Weather Service Flood Forecasts The USGS makes streamflow information available for a host of ap- plications. One especially important example is the hydrologic science and streamflow observations that undergird flood watches and warnings provided by the NOAA National Weather Service’s (NWS) River Fore- cast Centers. The NWS and USGS closely cooperate and coordinate the provision of these products and services. The NWS properly acknowl- edges the pivotal USGS role and works with cooperators to advocate for stable, long-term support of the National Water Information System. Nevertheless, this USGS role, though vital, is not very visible to the public or to policy makers, largely because NWS makes the actual fore- casts that the public receives. USGS and their cooperators, such as NWS, need to ensure that credit for the USGS role is more visible and explicit. Some of this might be accomplished by making such federal services more visible on the agencies’ web sites, as a start. Hydrologic Monitoring to Support Everglades Restoration The USGS is highly involved in the major ecological restoration ef- forts around the country, such as their work with the Chesapeake Bay res- toration program as well as the Everglades restoration. The preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that a return to hydrologic characteristics of

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 37 BOX 2-4 Regional Groundwater Management: Balancing the Water Needs of Communities and Natural Systems Urban water use demands are steadily increasing throughout the country as our larger population centers continue to grow. In the Western states, millions of new residents now rely upon regional groundwater resources to meet their needs. This increase in demand directly competes with the water needs of sensi- tive wetland and riparian habitats in the region. The integration of strategic monitoring programs, the application of decision-support tools and predictive models based on empirical data, and collaborative, consensus-based planning processes that engage a wide array of stakeholders are all essential components for effective groundwater management at regional scales. The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) is located in southeastern Arizona, near the U.S./Mexico border, and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It supports a number of federally listed threatened and endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), some of which are directly reliant upon groundwater discharge that sustains lush streamside habitats. The USGS, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and USFWS are active members of the Upper San Pedro Partnership, a consortium of 21 local, state and federal agencies and organizations who are working to- gether to attain sustainable yield of groundwater resources in the area through an adaptive management approach. The USGS provides key technical expertise in this partnership effort through extensive field data collection, and simulation of the groundwater system using MODFLOW 2000 (MF2K) (Harbaugh and others, 2000a, 2000b) resulting in in- formation such as Figure 2-1. This 5-layer numerical groundwater flow model represents multiple hydrogeologic units to simulate seasonal and long-term varia- tions in groundwater flow. Although some USGS streamflow records in the area go back as far as 1903, additional data collection by the USGS from the 1990s until 2004 helped to address critical information gaps regarding the behavior of the groundwater system, and its interactions with streamflow. Previous modeling efforts had been constrained by a lack of data describing rates and locations of recharge, hydrogeologic factors such as the location of silt and clay layers, the vertical distribution of hydraulic head, and other factors. As a result, elected officials and decision-makers who have been engaged in this partnership effort have increased their abilities to make informed decisions as a result of model development, and find themselves refining their metrics of success for managing groundwater resources from a simple “bottom line” water budget approach toward a more sophisticated spatial water management perspective. The location of groundwater recharge and extraction can be just as important as their volumes in terms of effects on baseflow in the river. This understanding of the groundwater systems using data syntheses such as Figure 2-1 provides a frame-

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38 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future work for consideration of additional strategies and management options not pre- viously contemplated. It also increases confidence regarding the most effective methods to sustain riparian resources. This is a good example where USGS WRD has actively moved into “fore- casting and prediction” information in concert with water managers and stake- holders (see Chapter 4). FIGURE 2-1: Map of San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area ground- water capture. SOURCE: Leake et al. (2008). information dissemination and research; and b.) groundwater and surface water; water quality and quantity.” The framework for these questions is derived directly from a former WRD strategic plan, Strategic Directions for the Water Resources Divi- sion, 1998-2008 (USGS Open-File Report 99-249; referred to as the Stra- tegic Directions plan in the discussion below). Hence, to address SOT 1 the WRD Strategic Directions plan, as well as individual program (5-year) plans for the Coop Water Program, the Hydrologic Networks and Analysis Program, the Hydrologic Research and Development Program, the Na-

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 39 tional Streamflow Information Program, the NAWQA Program, the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, the Water Resources Research Act Pro- grams, the Ground-Water Resources Program, and the National Water-Use Information Program were reviewed and then related to the balance of the USGS WRD portfolio (SOT 4). However, questions regarding program planning, goals, and balance are difficult to answer. In general, when they have the resources to carry them out, the WRD and its individual programs have successfully met their basic goals. It is easy to state that basic objec- tives and operational functions were met, but not necessarily the full intent of the WRD plans. While we could produce a long list of projects and basic accomplish- ments that address stated “goals” in WRD and individual program 5-year plans, this would not be particularly useful. Many USGS plans are nearly a decade old; for example, the Strategic Directions plan is ca. 1999. Al- though many plans have been updated with annual operating guidance and memos, trying to catalog and characterize specifics related to these older plans does not provide much insight or guidance to the WRD. Also, the USGS now has a new strategic plan, Facing tomorrow’s challenges—U.S. Geological Survey science in the decade 2007–2017 (USGS, 2007) which presumably will drive program development for the coming years. This new science plan has important drivers for the WRD program to help to address many pressing problems for the nation. Therefore, our suggestions and review are offered in the context of this new plan (see Water for To- morrow, Chapter 4). SOT question 4 about the content of the science portfolio and program balance and where the USGS currently focuses its efforts comes from former ways in which the WRD programs and budgets were tracked. The Strategic Directions report (USGS, 1999) provides some background; relevant sections are summarized in Box 2-5. The committee examined the possibility of reviewing the WRD budget by these categories to extend this analysis to the current condition. However, the USGS introduced a new budget system, and it is now difficult to re-produce these figures, so the committee did not pursue a detailed budget analysis of “program bal- ance” as outlined. 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 adjusted to accommodate such summaries.

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40 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future The committee judges that the WRD continues to work to find balance among its basic program activities, and this is a worthy struggle. For ex- ample, the WRD understands the importance of long-term data collection. As outlined in NRC (2004a), many key long-term water monitoring sys- tems have been in substantial decline or functionally eliminated. While “stationarity” may be “dead” (Milly et al., 2008) and as a result our nation needs new science to forecast future hydrologic conditions, the nation needs long-term records as a basis to understand its water resources, and the changes and challenges we are facing, to evaluate future conditions. The USGS must continue to find a way and develop resources to maintain long term records so vital for future analysis. COST-EFFECTIVENESS Here, we will discuss the “cost-effectiveness” of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water activities, SOT question 5. It is very difficult— perhaps impossible—to address the “cost-effectiveness” of programs such as the USGS Water Resource Discipline (WRD). Except perhaps for the basics of their streamflow measurement program, the WRD does not produce sim- ple products. Furthermore, there are not well-defined “industry-wide” met- rics to measure the “cost-effectiveness” of their scientific and intellectual products. Therefore we ask how do we measure the cost-effectiveness of leadership the WRD has provided in water programs for the country, or the relevance of their programs dealing with emerging issues? The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who often asks such questions, has itself struggled with concepts such as “research efficiency.” A recent National Research Council study, NRC, 2008c, on evaluating re- search efficiency at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, concluded that OMB was not recommending or accepting the same methods for different federal agencies. That report noted that metrics based on ulti- mate (i.e., long-term) outcomes of research are not feasible for evaluating research efficiency because such outcomes cannot be known in advance, may occur long after the research is completed, and may depend on many other factors than the effectiveness of the program in question. It recom- mended that expert panels be used to evaluate the relevance, quality, and performance of the research, for example, whether an agency is “doing the right research and doing it well” (NRC, 2008c) as considerable expert judgment is required.

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 41 BOX 2-5 Relevant Sections of “Strategic Directions for the Water Resources Division, 1998-2008” (USGS Open-File Report 99-249) “Ideally, the percentages of total available funds for the three components should be about 40 percent for long-term data-collection, about 45 percent for interpretation and assessment, and about 15 percent for research and develop- ment. The relative proportion of these three components will be out of balance if either long-term data collection or interpretation and assessment funding falls below 30 percent of total program or if research and development falls below 15 percent.* “The history of the mix among program activities is as follows: Percentage of Overall Funds 1982 1990 1998 Long-term data collection1 37 36 34 Interpretation and assessment 47 45 48 Research and development 16 19 18 1 Long-term data collection is defined as data that are collected consis- tently over a period of at least 5 years and typically for a much longer pe- riod of time. Thus, even though almost all projects collect basic hydro- logic data, only those sites that are monitored continuously for at least 5 years are included in calculating the percentage of funds spent on long- term data collection. “From 1982 to 1998, there was only modest funding growth above in- flation for streamgages and real declines in funding for NASQAN and ground-water monitoring. This is of special concern because of the impor- tance of long-term data collection for water-resource management and to determine the effects on water resources of climate variability and land-use changes on water resources…WRD will work with DOI, Office of Man- agement and Budget (OMB), and Congress to begin to shift its overall pro- gram to increase the funds available for long-term data collection… “WRD must also maintain a balance among the water-resource disci- pline areas. Ideally, this balance would be about 30 percent of total pro- gram funds spent for data collection and investigations that are related to surface-water quantity (includes floods), and about 25 percent for data col-

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42 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future lection and investigations that are related to ground-water availability. Of the remaining funds, about 25 percent would be spent for data collection and investigations of surface-water quality, including geomorphology, and ecology, and about 20 percent for ground-water quality. The ideal funding level for surface water is higher than that for groundwater because of the extent of surface-water monitoring needed for flooding and hazard warning. Overall, there is a bias towards quantity and availability of water resources because of WRD’s unique position as the Nation’s primary collector of these data. WRD’s overall program will be out of balance if any one of the four components falls below about 20 percent or rises above about 35 per- cent. Percentage of Overall 1982 1990 1998 Funds Groundwater 20 20 15 Surface water 32 32 32 Water quality 22 23 25 General hydrology 26 25 28 “During the last 8 years (1990-98), there has been growth in the water- quality area. This growth primarily results from increased work for the De- partment of Defense and the growth of the NAWQA program. The surface- water component has stayed constant between 1982 and 1998 but the num- ber of interpretive studies, which were never a large percentage of the sur- face-water component, has had an overall decrease. The discipline that had the most significant decrease was groundwater resources, primarily because of completion of the Regional Aquifer-System Analysis Program.” In the following paragraphs, three different approaches are taken to help provide an answer to whether overall WRD programs are “well-managed and conducted in a cost-effective manner.” This evaluation of the term is based on a combination of best professional judgment and semi-quantitative measures. Metrics include examining the demand for USGS products and services, and formal efforts to use expert panels (as recommended in the report to OMB) to optimize USGS WRD programs. We also refer the reader to Chapter 3 where a brief look at the budgetary climate is linked to cost- effectiveness in relation to the staffing and optimization of various programs.

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 43 Demand for USGS Products and Services As a first step we evaluate product demand. The testimony from other federal and state agencies and other stakeholders about the need and demand for USGS data support may be viewed as one indicator of the cost- effectiveness of their efforts. The Cooperative Water Program. The only area in the WRD budget that has risen significantly, in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1990 is the state and local funding for the Cooperative Water Program (Coop), as will be highlighted in Chapter 3. This represents funds that a local cooperator— such as a state, county, city, or tribal government—pays the USGS to work on projects of mutual interest. These consumers are increasing their funding for the WRD products, and now exceed the USGS federal Coop program capability to match their money. A substantial portion of these costs are to maintain hydrologic infrastructure, such as stream gages, as well as Coop interpretive studies. Cooperators often note that USGS gaging programs are costly. Some states and local governments supplement the USGS program with their own gages—but these sites were often set up with USGS supervi- sion to ensure that the engineering installation meets appropriate specifica- tions for data quality. Even amidst the cost concerns, cooperators note that they need the quality and independence of the USGS products; that inde- pendent monitoring and data analyses are vital to provide unbiased input to their management programs and for “government performance and review.” A related measure, the Coop portion of the streamgaging program is dis- cussed in the analysis put forth by the National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC, 2006) that came forward to outline the “Benefits of USGS Stream- gaging Program.” The NHWC is comprised of cooperators and stakeholders that utilize these data. They do not put their assessment in terms of “cost- efficiency” but rather in terms of societal benefits, and societal need for the streamflow data, partly in response to concerns for continued budget reduc- tions for these programs. The report outlined nine distinct beneficial catego- ries of uses for the USGS streamgaging network: 1. Planning, designing, operating, and maintaining the nation’s mul- tipurpose water management systems, 2. Issuing flood warnings to protect lives and reduce property dam- age, 3. Designing highways and bridges, 4. Mapping floodplains,

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44 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future 5. Monitoring environmental conditions and protecting aquatic habi- tats, 6. Protecting water quality and regulating pollutant discharges, 7. Managing water rights and transboundary water issues, 8. Education and research, and 9. Recreational uses. Water Data, Models, and Publications. USGS water data are in huge demand. Requests for data fulfilled from the on-line National Water Information System average between 30 and 40 million downloads per month as of mid-2008 (waterdata.usgs.gov). As noted earlier in this chap- ter, WRD’s MODFLOW is one of the most widely used groundwater flow models worldwide, and exemplary of that fact, more than 23,000 copies of MODFLOW were downloaded from the main USGS web site from 1990 to 2000 alone. As noted earlier, one of the most highly cited papers in the journal En- vironmental Science and Technology was a result of USGS national studies evaluating the occurrence of emerging contaminants (Kolpin et al., 2002). This work also was considered one of the Top 100 Science Stories of the Year by Discover Magazine. In a recent analysis of the 200 most-cited papers published between 1996 and 2007 in Water Resources Research, approximately 10 percent were written by USGS authors. They were noted for their in-depth contribution to the progress and practice of hydro- logic science. Certainly, this should be considered another measure of “ef- fectiveness” (along with leadership). Efforts to Optimize Their Program Over the last several decades, the WRD has put much time, effort, and thought into optimizing its human and financial resources. Two examples are the Streamgaging Program (NSIP) and the National Water-Quality As- sessment (NAWQA) Program. Also, WRD has maintained a nearly con- tinuous program of reviews by expert panels, the NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board and other organizations, which have provided sig- nificant feedback on nearly every major water program and initiative over that period of time. Optimization of the Streamgaging Program (The NSIP). Over many years, the USGS has conducted repeated exercises to “optimize” its streamflow data collection network—to be as cost effective as it can to meet both national and cooperator needs. The majority of the gages are

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 45 funded through the Coop program, in which 50 percent or more of the cost is provided by a state or local cooperator—many of the remaining gages are completely or partially funded by other federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The USGS has only partial control over the locations of such gages. It has, however, gone through numerous assessments to optimize network design, in terms of both location and numbers of gages, to effectively address water manage- ment needs and to ensure it can optimize its network to address regional and national needs. This work was developed in the 1970s and 1980s using sta- tistical regression and other optimization techniques (e.g., Moss, 1982; Moss and Tasker, 1991). Such techniques also have been applied in a context of shrinking federal budgets to evaluate which gages could be abandoned with the least loss of hydrologic information generated. Some of these optimization techniques have proved difficult to apply over large, heterogeneous regions with varying geology, soils, topography, land-use, and biota—especially at the national scale. The NSIP, therefore, took the alternative approach of designing a network to meet a defined set of federal goals (http://water.usgs.gov/nsip/federalneeds. html). Optimiza- tion also has been applied to this approach with some success and research continues at the USGS in this area (Lanfear, 2005). Optimization of the NAWQA Program. Another example of the WRD’s management efforts toward cost-effectiveness was reviewed in the 2002 NRC report Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program, which assesses the first cycle of the NAWQA program and planning for the second cycle. National cov- erage and representativeness are issues fundamental to the success of NAWQA. Cycle I was planned for 59 study units (SUs), but eight were not initiated because of budget constraints and the number of SUs in Cycle II was reduced to 42. The report expresses concern with how representa- tive of the nation’s waters NAWQA would be with the ongoing reduction in SUs. While the NRC study concluded that NAWQA had done an ex- emplary job of dealing with downsizing to 42 planned SUs for Cycle II, it also noted that NAWQA cannot continue to be downsized and still be con- sidered the national water quality assessment that the nation needs. Despite the significant reduction in Cycle II, the study concluded that NAWQA could still maintain good coverage of the nation’s streams and groundwater resources, largely because of the commendable, rigorous planning effort that the WRD NAWQA management team employed. Program Review. The USGS has made extensive use of external ex- pert panels to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs; a practice that another NRC committee (NRC, 2008c) has recommended OMB should

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46 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future ing basis for the last two decades (see Box 2-6). In addition, the WRD engages other organizations in reviews of its programs that have led to reports such as the National Hydrologic Warning Council’s 2006 report on the streamgaging program (NHWC, 2006), and the Advisory Committee on Water Information’s 1999 and 2004 reviews of the Coop program (see USGS [1999] and ACWI, 2004—http://acwi.gov/ coop2004/CoopTFRpt. pdf, respectively). The Coop program receives extensive input from enti- ties such as the Interstate Council on Water Policy (http://www.icwp.org) through cooperators’ round-tables, and through myriad discussions be- tween cooperators and USGS science center personnel. While these re- views are generally oriented toward societal relevance and science leader- BOX 2-6 Reports on USGS WRD Programs and Initiatives by the National Research Council 1990 Review of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program: The Challenge of National Synthesis 1991 Preparing for the Twenty-First Century: A Report to the U.S. Geological Survey [Review of overall WRD activities] 1992 Regional Hydrology and the USGS Steam Gaging Network 1996 Hazardous Materials in the Hydrologic Environment: The Role of the U.S. Geological Survey 1997 Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey 1999 Hydrologic Hazards Science at the U.S. Geological Survey 2000 Investigating Groundwater Systems on Regional and National Scales [Ground-Water Resources Program] 2001 Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey 2002 Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program 2002 Opportunities to Improve the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program 2004 Assessing the National Streamflow Information Program 2006 River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey All of these reports are available from http://www.nap.edu.

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The USGS WRD: A Performance Review 47 ship questions, they often touch on management approaches and cost-ef- fectiveness issues as well. Considering the available metrics for analysis we find that the USGS is managed in a cost-effective manner. Demand for the USGS WRD prod- uct is apparent, both in the stakeholder contributions to the Coop program, and popularity of USGS publications and real time water data. The Disci- pline diligently optimizes its programs and seeks external review both from the NRC and other entities. The USGS pioneered the field of water science in the 20th century; and now some 20 other federal agencies have water sci- ence and/or management in their mission statement. The USGS, particularly because of its unbiased nature, successfully facilitates coordination and ex- ternal collaboration. The SOT questions on “program balance” relate to an older strategic plan employed by the USGS, that cannot be fully tracked us- ing the current budget system. If these are program measures that USGS, DOI, or OMB still deem important, the budget system should be adjusted accordingly to track these measures. A performance review by these metrics judges that overall the USGD WRD programs continue to meet their basic goals and objectives, but many signs point to a decline in their capacity and ability to meet the future needs of the nation.