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 program. 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 component of the WRD’s charge to provide hydrologic data.
In the 1960s, the WRD leadership further evolved when the WRD established the uniquely interdisciplinary National Research Program (NRP) that pioneered scientific hydrology as an Earth science to analyze and manage water 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 information systems to promote large-scale interdisciplinary assessments of water resource-related topics. Examples include how surface water and groundwater interact in the Florida Everglades and around Chesapeake Bay; how water circulation and sediment deposition affects biological habitats in San Francisco Bay; how sediment delivery and crustal subsidence affects the sustainability 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 agencies, 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. External 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