3
Preparing For Tomorrow

In chapter 2, we reviewed various aspects of WRD’s performance, as requested in the statement of task (SOT; Box 1-1). In chapter 4, Water for Tomorrow, we will address the SOT questions that look to the future, outlining recommendations for organizational adjustments and leadership to address the water resource problems facing the nation. To set the stage for tomorrow and provide context to look to the future, in this chapter we describe problematic trends and water resource issues that will shape the priorities that USGS water programs need to address to meet society’s needs. We also briefly review components of the WRD’s planning process, working with stakeholders to identify and establish priorities. This process is an important component to define directions that are relevant for future needs. Lastly, we review WRD budget and staffing, which provides necessary context on the operational and budget climate, related to past and present performance issues, but more importantly, this also must be understood as a starting point in preparing for tomorrow.

WATER RESOURCE TRENDS “PREDICTABLE SURPRISES” AWAIT

Our Cup Runneth Dry


“Henceforth, North Americans will have to give up their assumption of an easy abundance of water, transcend their fears of future scarcity, and manage their water resources sustainably with due regard for their full value – ecological, economic, and social.”


SOURCE: Mehan (2009).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 48
3 Preparing For Tomorrow In chapter 2, we reviewed various aspects of WRD’s performance, as requested in the statement of task (SOT; Box 1-1). In chapter 4, Water for Tomorrow, we will address the SOT questions that look to the future, out- lining recommendations for organizational adjustments and leadership to address the water resource problems facing the nation. To set the stage for tomorrow and provide context to look to the future, in this chapter we de- scribe problematic trends and water resource issues that will shape the pri- orities that USGS water programs need to address to meet society’s needs. We also briefly review components of the WRD’s planning process, work- ing with stakeholders to identify and establish priorities. This process is an important component to define directions that are relevant for future needs. Lastly, we review WRD budget and staffing, which provides necessary context on the operational and budget climate, related to past and present performance issues, but more importantly, this also must be understood as a starting point in preparing for tomorrow. WATER RESOURCE TRENDS “PREDICTABLE SURPRISES” AWAIT “Our Cup Runneth Dry” “Henceforth, North Americans will have to give up their assump- tion of an easy abundance of water, transcend their fears of future scar- city, and manage their water resources sustainably with due regard for their full value – ecological, economic, and social.” SOURCE: Mehan (2009). 48

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 49 Future water needs cannot be precisely known, yet there are trends of increasing stress on water resources that are widely recognized. These trends are “Predictable Surprises” (Box 3-1) with respect to water re- sources in the near future (Bazerman and Watkins, 2004). These “surprises” are problems that can be recognized but they will not resolve themselves. For example, aquifers will not quickly recharge and “naturally resolve the problem” of aquifer depletion after they are overpumped (e.g., Ogalalla Aq- uifer). In many regions, water allocation conflicts already occur and will become worse in the future because of over-allocation of water coupled to increasing population growth and foreseeable droughts. As these predictable water crises occur the USGS remains in the position to assist the nation in understanding, predicting, and minimizing the impacts of these crises. But changes are needed for the USGS to successfully meet the nation’s chal- lenges. For perspective, we outline some key trends for water resources that must be faced in the coming years. BOX 3-1 Predictable Surprises In “Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and How to Prevent Them,” Bazerman and Watkins (2004), describe the charac- teristics of Predictable Surprises that may affect society or businesses: 1) A shared trait of predictable surprises is that leaders knew a problem ex- isted and that the problem would not solve itself. 2) Predictable surprises can be expected when organizational members rec- ognize that a problem is getting worse over time. 3) Fixing the problem would incur significant costs in the present, while the benefits of action would be delayed. (We discount the future.) 4) Addressing the surprises typically requires incurring certain cost, while the reward is avoiding a cost that, while uncertain, is likely to be much larger. (Hence, leaders know they can expect little credit in the short run for preventing them.) 5) Decision-makers, organizations, and nations often fail to prepare for predictable surprises because of the natural tendency to maintain the status quo (when a system still functions, there is no crisis to catalyze action). 6) A small vocal minority benefits from inaction and is motivated to sub- vert the actions of leaders for their own benefit.

OCR for page 48
50 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future PROBLEMS OF WATER AVAILABILITY WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY MORE SERIOUS AND PROMINENT The U.S. Census Bureau projects the population of the United States to increase almost 50 percent from 282 million people in 2000 to 420 million in 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/ usinterim- proj/). The amount of water available of appropriate quality for these peo- ple is limited. The hydrologic regimen of any given region of the country is influenced by regional climate, but also design and operation of our in- frastructure, including water and wastewater collection, storage and distri- bution, electric power generation, residential and commercial buildings, roads and bridges, and agriculture. Access to sufficient water has become and will continue to be a difficult problem throughout the United States, not only in the southwestern states that rely on well-recognized, declining surface water and groundwater resources (Figure 3-1). “Why You Should Worry About Water. How this diminishing resource will determine the future of where and how we live.” SOURCE: The cover page and headline for U.S. News and World Re- port, June 4, 2007. In the relatively humid Southeast, Georgia struggles to manage water to support its growing metropolitan areas, resulting in conflicts with the downstream states of Alabama and Florida. Salt water intrusion from over- pumping has reduced usable groundwater resources available to coastal cit- ies from Florida, to Bainbridge Island in the Pacific Northwest, and Cape Cod in the Northeast. Irrigated agriculture has been modified or abandoned in parts of the High Plains because groundwater levels have dropped. Water constraints are becoming both more chronic and widespread, as well as regionally acute (Figure 3-2). The areas of the greatest projected population growth are where water withdrawals are already unsustainable, exceeding available freshwater resources (the limit on recharge and re- newal of water) by 5 to >500 percent. Water supply and demand are linked inextricably to energy supply and demand, key components of so- cietal and economic health. “The availability of adequate water supplies has a profound impact on the availability of energy, while energy produc- tion and power generation activities affect the availability and quality of

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 51 FIGURE 3-1 Water-level declines in the U.S. Darker regions show major regions with declines of 40 feet in at least one confined aquifer, or 25 feet in an uncon- fined aquifer, since predevelopment. The dots are individual wells where the measured water-level difference over time is greater than or equal to 40 feet. SOURCE: Reilly et al. (2008). water” (Pate et al., 2007). When combining fresh and saline water with- drawals, the energy sector accounted for nearly 50 percent of withdrawals in 2000 (Pate, et al. 2007; Hutson et al., 2004). There are regional issues in water availability resulting from the water- energy nexus. Power plants have already had to limit generation because of insufficient water (Pate et al., 2007) and concerns about water availabil- ity have generated opposition to new power generation and fuel processing facilities. Nationally, about three percent of U.S. power generation sup- ports water supply and treatment. In California, where water is distributed long distances, 19 percent of electricity and 32 percent of natural gas con- sumption goes for water supply and treatment, end uses, and wastewater treatment (California Energy Commission, 2005). CLIMATE CHANGE WILL MAKE WATER RESOURCES CHALLENGES MORE DIFFICULT Climate change and its projected impact on hydrologic “stationarity” (that the climatic and anthropogenic controls over the hydrologic cycle

OCR for page 48
52 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future 40% 40% 16% 15% 15% 6% 40% 56% 22% 18% 28% 54% Sources: 45% •USGS Circular 1200 (Year 1995) •EPRI 2003, A 46% survey of Water Use •Irrigation Re- sources and Water Costs, USDA/ERS, AREI, EIB-16: Chapter 2.1, 2006 FIGURE 3-2 Emerging Water Stress and Projected Population Growth. The gray shading indicates the counties where 1995 water withdrawals already exceed replen- ishment by precipitation by 5 percent to > 500 percent. The text boxes indicate the regional projections for the percentage population increase from 1995-2025. The areas of greatest expected population growth (the southwest, west, and coastal re- gions) coincide with the areas that already have excessive water stress on available, renewable water. SOURCE: Pate et al. (2007). Modified, with permission, Xeris- cape Council of New Mexico, Inc. are invariant) probably will result in greater environmental variability than has occurred in the recent past. Estimates of future climate change lead the hydrologic community to expect greater temporal variation in the avail- ability of water because of enhanced evaporation related to increasing temperatures, to precipitation declines in the interior western region of the country, to decreased snowpack storage of water, and to increased storm intensity in some regions (Bates, 2008). Almost all computer-model pro- jections of future change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest a hotter climate throughout the nation, coupled to further drying in the American west. These projected trends portend future diffi- culties the country will face with respect to availability and distribution of water resources.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 53 “The future water crisis is unlikely to materialize as a monolithic catas- trophe that threatens the livelihoods of millions. Rather it is the grow- ing sum of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of water problems at regional and local scales (and not just in the semi-arid West…).” SOURCE: National Research Council (2004b). Foreseeable droughts will exacerbate water availability problems (Fig- ure 3-3) in areas where, due to historic water allocation, water is already overly or fully allocated. Historic water allocation decisions were made without current knowledge of water amount and reliability (i.e., flow regime of rivers, the refilling of lakes and reservoirs, or recharge and storage capac- ity of aquifers). In some areas freshwater withdrawals are already in excess of available precipitation by a factor of more than five (Figure 3-2). Another effect of greater variability of hydrologic events is increased flooding, in both riverine and coastal zones. Serious flooding impacts range from residential areas, croplands, infrastructure development and operations, to bridge clearances, urban storm water management, highways, railroads, and dams. Most of our infrastructure has been designed assuming that the frequency and magnitude of runoff events will not change in the future. However the accumulation of longer records and the extension of climatic and hydrologic records through paleohydrologic proxies and historical re- cords show that persistent, non-random fluctuations of weather, associated with the changing states of the global atmosphere and oceans may drive hy- drologic processes in the future in ways not reflected by our historic instru- mental record. Therefore, infrastructure needs to be designed and managed to be sensitive to the risks of these unfamiliar environmental changes (i.e., “stationarity is dead”) that broadly can be forecasted. Recognizing and ex- ploring the hydrologic significance of these changes requires both a vigi- lant monitoring program and a sophisticated water science monitoring agency such as the WRD. In 2003, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) surveyed state water managers and determined that even under normal or non-drought conditions, 36 states anticipated water shortages in the next 10 years. Under drought conditions, 46 states expected shortages in the same time frame. The economic impacts of such changes in the hydrologic cycle have been documented. The GAO (2003) reports that eight water shortages from drought in the past 20 years each resulted in ≥ $1 billion in monetary losses. The most severe of these droughts resulted in an estimated loss of $40 bil- lion to the economies of the Central and Eastern U.S. in 1988.

OCR for page 48
54 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future FIGURE 3-3 A snapshot of drought conditions in the United States in June 2008. SOURCE: National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska, U.S. De- partment of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008). Available online at http://drought.unl.edu/dm /monitor.html. WATER QUALITY IMPAIRMENTS WILL CONTINUE TO BE A DIFFICULT ISSUE Water availability is constrained by both water quantity and water qual- ity. Impaired water quality may limit the quantity available for various pur- poses. Water quality has improved in U.S. waters with the implementation of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act (and other envi- ronmental protection programs); rivers are no longer catching fire and phos- phorus loading has been reduced, for example (NRC, 2002a). But nonpoint source contamination of surface water and groundwater from agricultural and urban lands remains widespread. More than one-third of the rivers and streams in the U.S. are listed as impaired or polluted (USEPA, 2008b) and by some estimates the trend of improving water quality is being reversed (Palmer and Allan, 2006).

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 55 The 2007 Gallup Earth Day poll found that Americans are more con- cerned with water than global warming or other environmental issues. A majority of those polled said they “personally worry…a great deal” about four different problems related to water: Pollution of drinking water (58%), Pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs (53%), Contamination of soil and water by toxic waste (52%), and Maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water for household needs (51%). SOURCE: http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci= 1615&pg=2. The Mississippi River system drains approximately 40 percent of the conterminous United States to the Gulf of Mexico (see Figure 3-4). The transport of nitrogen and phosphorus through the Mississippi to the Gulf contributes to expanding hypoxic conditions that now threaten aquatic life and the seafood industry in the Gulf (USEPA, 2007). The sheer magnitude of the problem makes resolution difficult and also requires federal in- volvement to define and comprehend it (NRC, 2008d). Hypoxia related to nutrients in runoff is not limited to the Mississippi River basin but is an expanding symptom of nutrient enrichment around country, around the world (Diaz and Rosenberg, 1995; Boesch, 2002; UNEP, 2006). Increased detection of organic constituents at low concentrations has highlighted an emerging concern with respect to ecological and human health. The EPA’s redefinition of its Contaminant Candidate List for drink- ing water (USEPA, 2008a; http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw /ccl/ccl3.html) and the USGS WRD’s assessment of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in water (e.g., Kolpin et al., 2002; Focazio et al., 2008) document that the number of identified water contaminants is growing faster than the determination of their effects on human health and ecosystem function. Combinations and co-occurrence of contaminants may pose threats equal to or greater than individual substances acting alone (Schwarzenbach et al., 2006; Brian et al., 2005; Altenburger et al., 2004). As the demand for water increases towards the limit of its availability, it will become necessary to use water of impaired quality as source water to meet society’s needs, requiring more costly handling and treatment. De-

OCR for page 48
56 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future FIGURE 3-4 Mississippi River drainage and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. SOURCE: USGS (2008). Adapted from http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/sparrow/ gulf_findings/hypoxia.html. salination of seawater, treatment and use of brackish groundwater, and re- use of treated waste waters will all likely be required in various regions of the country (NRC, 2008a). Alternative energy development such as bio- fuel production will also demand new supplies of water, and will impact the quality of rivers (NRC, 2008b). Collectively, these developments have tremendous implications for water resources. Ultimately, society may re- define the value of water both in the ecological context, i.e., Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, and as an economic good. WATER PRICES WILL RISE “Fortunately, as each year passes, more countries, institutions and indi- viduals are realizing that we don’t just have a water problem – we have an impending water crisis. … … Finding the right balance to this di- lemma – water as an economic commodity versus water as a human right – will be one of the great social, economic and political challenges of this century.” SOURCE: “The State of the Water Industry 2007.” The Environmental Benchmarker and Strategist, Winter 2007.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 57 Water in the U.S. is undervalued and subsidized directly by some communities and indirectly through public water use and allocation policies. Water users in the U.S. pay less for their water, in both absolute terms (Figure 3-5) and as a percentage of household income (Job, 2008), than in most other developed countries, and enjoy a relatively high level of water quality. Water prices are rising, beyond inflationary pressures, because of the need to repair aging infrastructure, the increased competition for water (drinking vs. irrigation), increases in energy costs, the costs of bringing new water sources (desalination) on-line, and also by society’s recognition of the need for restoration of ecosystem values. Over the past five years, average water rates in the U.S. have increased by 29 percent (based on annual surveys of NUS Consulting Group [http://www.nusinc.com/]) whereas the consumer price index rose only 15.7 percent during the same period (Bureau of Labor Statistics; NUS Consulting Group, 2008). The continued anticipated price increases for such a fundamental commodity as water have social equity implications. Cost increases will have the greatest impacts on the poor, which will engender other policy debates. Cost of Water (USD) $12.00 $10.00 USD per Thousand Gallons $8.00 $6.00 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00 m ly a k ce en y s lia nd n m es a ar an nd ai ad ric Ita iu do ra an at ed a Sp m lg m rla Af an nl st St ng Fr Sw en Be Fi er Au he C h Ki d D G ut te et So d ni N te U ni U FIGURE 3-5 Cost of water (US dollars) per annum in the United States com- pared to other developed countries for 2007. SOURCE: Modified, with permis- sion, NUS Consulting Group (2008). © 2008 NUS Consulting Group, Park Ridge, NJ.

OCR for page 48
58 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future U.S. cities and smaller communities are entering a time when infrastruc- ture remediation and renewal as well as the rehabilitation of aquatic ecosys- tems can no longer be ignored. Dams, pipes, pumping stations, and treat- ment plants in many areas have reached the end of their useful lives and are in serious need of repair. Water has not been priced to accommodate such replacement costs. According to EPA’s most recent drinking water needs survey and report to Congress (USEPA 2009), the U.S. infrastructure expen- diture needs are projected to exceed $330 billion over the next 20 years for just public drinking water systems. The American Society of Civil Engi- neer’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (ASCE, 2009), cited investment needs, over this same period, of around $1 trillion, for the broader spectrum of drinking water and waste water systems. Full cost- pricing for water is always noted as a key to developing a sustainable wa- ter-supply infrastructure for U.S. society (USEPA 2008c; Mehan 2009), and these critical infrastructure needs will continue to push a rise in wa- ter prices. Studies for California water utilities found that better water information and forecasts are needed to assess long-range options for adaptive manage- ment given the growing variability and uncertainty on the limitations on wa- ter availability (Groves et al., 2008). These studies noted that utilities should begin management adjustments in the near-term to reduce their long-term vulnerability and to prevent unacceptable cost increases. Accurate data, information, and analysis to forecast and quantify the un- certainty in water quantity and quality will be increasingly important to minimize the inevitable rising cost of providing water and waste water ser- vices for the nation. The USGS is well positioned to do this. RESOLVING WATER CONFLICTS AND POLICY DEBATES WILL DEMAND MORE WATER SCIENCE Water policy debates and disputes continue to occur at all levels of government (local, state, and federal), and between the nation and its neighbors. The debate will include arguments about the nature of water as a mixed good, having public and private elements; transboundary is- sues related to water allocation; ecosystem vs. other societal needs; the approach to valuing water; the impact of rising prices and social equity; the costs and benefits of a range of engineering and social solutions; the variability inherent in the hydroclimatic processes and the spatial distri- bution of water resources; and more.

OCR for page 48
64 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future “Water resources research funding has not paralleled growth in demo- graphic and economic parameters such as population, gross domestic product (GDP), or budget outlays (unlike research in other fields such as health). The per capita spending on water resources research has fallen from $3.33 in 1973 to $2.40 in 2001. Given that the pressure on water resources varies more or less directly with population and eco- nomic growth, and given sharp and intensifying increases in conflicts over water, these trends are very troubling.” SOURCE: National Research Council (2004b). In 2004, in Confronting the Nation’s Water Problems, the NRC noted (see quote in the text box above) the overall decline in funding for water resources at this time when the nation’s water resources problems are growing. The following graphs summarize trends in the WRD budget from 1990 to 2006 (Figures 3-6 through 3-9), reflecting these problematic trends. In nominal (i.e., non-inflation-adjusted) dollars, the budget trend over the past 16 years is upward (Figure 3-6), but in inflation-adjusted, i.e., real dollars, the trend is flat or slightly downward since the mid-1990s (Figure 3-7). A further subdivision of the WRD budget (Figure 3-8), reveals that the only major component of the WRD budget that has risen significantly in real terms since 1990 is the State and Local Reimbursable Coop funding for the Coop program, (i.e., non-federal), matching funds from local coop- erators. This increase is in marked contrast to the trend of the federally appropriated Coop funding (WRD Coop Appropriated, i.e., the federal matching funds), Figure 3-8. There is growing wedge of disparity between the federal and cooperator contributions from 1990 to 2006. The 1990, cooperator contribution was 54 percent—only slightly higher than the 50:50 match originally intended by Congress. This had grown to a 66 per- cent match—essentially a 2:1 cooperator:federal ratio—by 2006.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 65 Nominal Water Resources Discipline Budget; Fiscal Years 1990 - 2006 Reimbursable 500 Other Reimbursable 400 State & Local Million USD COOP 300 Reimbursable Other Fed 200 Agencies WRD COOP 100 Appropriated WRD 0 Appropriated 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 1 5 6 0 2 3 4 200 200 200 199 199 199 200 200 200 200 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-6 The Water Resources Discipline (WRD) budget from Fiscal Year 1990-2006, in nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) dollars. “Reimbursable” projects are those that provide a specific service for another agency or organization, as opposed to those that are appropriated directly by Congress. “Coop” refers to the Cooperative Water Program, defined in main text. DATA SOURCE: USGS. Inflation Adjusted Water Resourecs Discipline Budget; Fiscal Years 1990 - 2006 Reimbursable 500 Other Reimbursable 400 State & Local Million USD COOP 300 Reimbursable Other Fed 200 Agencies WRD COOP 100 Appropriated WRD 0 Appropriated 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 19 9 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 20 0 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-7 The Water Resources Discipline budget in real dollars (inflation adjusted to fiscal year 2000) shows the generally static nature of the budget since 1990 and a general decline since its peak in 1994. DATA SOURCE: USGS.

OCR for page 48
66 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future Inflation Adjusted Water Resources Discipline Budget; Fiscal Years 1990 - 2006 160 WRD Appropriated 140 Million USD WRD COOP 120 Appropriated 100 Reimbursable Other Fed 80 Agencies Reimbursable 60 State & Local COOP 40 5 6 4 1 2 3 8 9 0 7 4 5 6 0 1 2 3 200 200 200 199 200 200 200 200 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-8 The Water Resources Discipline (WRD) budget in real dollars (inflation-adjusted to fiscal year 2000) showing the individual trends; only the State and Local Reimbursable Coop (i.e., the non-Federal share of coop projects) portion has risen. DATA SOURCE: USGS. Inflation Adjusted Water Resources Discipline Research Program; Fiscal Years 1990-2006 $45,000,000 Appropriated Reimbursable $40,000,000 $35,000,000 $30,000,000 USD $25,000,000 $20,000,000 $15,000,000 $10,000,000 $5,000,000 $0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 200 200 200 200 200 200 200 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-9 Inflation adjusted Water Resources Discipline research funding (adjusted to fiscal year 2000), again showing the decline through time. DATA SOURCE: USGS.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 67 The increase in funding provided by state and local cooperators may be an encouraging measure of WRD product demand by supporters, a positive illustration of cost-effectiveness (see chapter 2). However, if USGS WRD resources and staffing continue to decrease, further program modifications will be required (NRC, 2004b). We do not mean to imply that more optimi- zation of programs is a bad thing, in fact, it is encouraged. However, con- tinued WRD optimization should be in conjunction with adequate resources and staffing. While some past budget reductions have produced some cost- effective program optimization, continued decreases will not provide ade- quate resources and staffing to meet the nation’s future needs, in our judg- ment. The increase in funding provided by state and local cooperators also raises concerns about the direction and scope of the WRD program. With the decline in federal funding, the WRD has, at times, turned to state and local sources to find financial support for personnel and activities. While the Coop program relationships have had widespread positive influences on the application of science to water resources, increased state and local support raises some concern about the ability to concentrate Coop resources on na- tional to regional-scale priorities. The NRC’s report on NSIP (NRC, 2004b) noted that the viability of potentially essential NSIP streamgages is intrinsi- cally connected to whether Coop funding continues and is stable. The report argues that streamgages essential for national interest and flood forecasting should be funded by federal allocation and not tied to Coop funding and we support that view. Figure 3-9 summarizes the portion of the WRD budget apportioned to research, divided into congressionally appropriated funds (that go to a re- search entity such as the National Research Program) and reimbursable funds to support joint research by the USGS and other state or federal agen- cies. Research funding has been static or on a slight downward trend since the 1990s as well. The flat-to-declining trend in funding is paralleled by a loss in personnel, addressed below. Staffing and Demographic Analysis Overall, WRD staffing has declined by approximately one-third since 1993. The data show a steady decline in both “science” employees (e.g., hydrologists, physical scientists) and “non-science” employees (e.g., budget analysts, personnel officers) in the WRD (Figure 3-10). The flat- to-declining budget over the past 16 years, coupled with salary increases and promotions, contributed to this loss of staffing.

OCR for page 48
68 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future W ater Resources Discipline Staffing Trends 6000 Science Water Employees Non-Science Water Employees Number of Employees 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 0 200 200 200 200 200 200 199 200 200 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-10 Number of employees in the Water Resources Discipline from 1990 to 2007. DATA SOURCE: USGS. W ater Resources Discipline Headquarters and National Research Program Staff Levels 500 450 Number of Employees 400 350 300 250 200 150 NRP Staff 100 WRD HQ Staff 50 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 200 200 200 200 200 200 200 200 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-11 Staffing of the National Research Program (NRP) and Water Resources Discipline Headquarters+ (WRD HQ) staff from 1990 to 2007. NRP staff has been reduced by 30 percent since 1993, and Headquarters staff by al- most 60 percent. DATA SOURCE: USGS.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 69 Staffing of the Water Resources Discipline Research Hydrologists 140 NRP 130 Number Research WRD Science Centers Hydrologists 120 110 100 90 80 70 60 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 20 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-12 Staffing levels of Research Hydrologists in the National Research Program (NRP) and Research Hydrologists in the Water Resources Discipline (WRD) Science Centers; staffing has declined in the NRP, with a substantive increase (through the late 1990s) in the Science Centers—the net effect has been a decentralization of hydrologic research capacity. DATA SOURCE: USGS. crease in the number of research hydrologists in the Science Centers during the 1990s. The net effect has been a decline in research grade staff and a decentralization of WRD’s research capacity. The re-distribution of research hydrologists to the Science Centers has promoted a higher level of science in the “field,” but possibly to the detriment of the NRP. In the past, how much did the critical mass of energetic research scientists, in close proximity in the NRP, contribute to novel technologies and advances? For example, major advances in geochemical and groundwater flow modeling and field investigations evolved from the close collaboration of NRP researchers during the 1980s and 1990s. Yet the percentage of non-hydrol- ogists (e.g., biologists) among scientists has increased somewhat since 1990, seeming to reflect an attempt to answer to the increasingly interdis- ciplinary challenges faced by the WRD (Figure 3-13). In tandem with the decline in staff, there also has been limited turn- over. The WRD workforce has aged dramatically since 1993, especially in the NRP where the percentage of hydrologists age 51 and older has in- creased from 24 percent in 1990 to 58 percent in 2007 (Figure 3-14). This

OCR for page 48
70 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future Percentage of Non-Hydrologist Water Resources Discipline Scientists 30% Hydrologist Scientists Percent (%) Non- 25% 20% 15% 5 6 7 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 199 200 200 200 200 200 200 200 200 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 199 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-13 Non-hydrologist scientists employed by the Water Resources Discipline (WRD) as a percentage of the total number of scientists from 1990- 2007. With the increase in multidisciplinary work, the proportion of scientists other than hydrologists in the WRD has increased during the 1990s and has held fairly steady since then. DATA SOURCE: USGS. Percent Water Resources Discipline Hydrologists Older than Age 51 70% 60% 50% % > Age 51 40% 30% 20% All WRD Hydrologists NRP Hydrologists 10% 0% 90 95 00 05 06 07 19 19 20 20 20 20 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-14 Percentage of National Research Program (NRP) and other Wa- ter Resource Discipline (WRD) hydrologists aged 51 and older. Note the dra- matic aging of the workforce since 1993 in the NRP. DATA SOURCE: USGS.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 71 Percent Water Resources Discipline Hydrologists Older than Age 51 70% 60% 50% % > A 51 40% ge 30% 20% All WRD Hydrologists NRP Hydrologists 10% 0% 90 95 00 05 06 07 19 19 20 20 20 20 Fiscal Year FIGURE 3-14 Percentage of National Research Program (NRP) and other Wa- ter Resource Discipline (WRD) hydrologists aged 51 and older. Note the dra- matic aging of the workforce since 1993 in the NRP. DATA SOURCE: USGS. have concluded (e.g., NRC, 2002b), and we state as well the WRD will not be able to meet their missions or the challenges ahead for nation’s water resources if such trends continue. THE USGS WRD CAN ADD VALUE TO WATER RESOURCE DEBATES The WRD has a legacy that can enable it to provide leadership and valuable information toward resolving water resource debates and assess- ments in the United States. The agency, even with the reductions in staff that have taken place, has a large number of scientists and highly skilled, experienced technicians in various fields that affect water resources. These include: geologists who study the environmental conditions that affect wa- ter storage and conveyance in aquifers, lakes, deltas, and streams; geo- chemists and geomorphologists concerned with the origin of contaminants such as sediment, metals, and organic materials; hydrologists concerned with the processes of water storage and transfer through landscapes, and biologists concerned with the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that both affect and are affected by natural and managed characteristics of water resources.

OCR for page 48
72 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future Percentage National Research Program Hydrologists by Age Group; 1990 45% 40% % NRP Hydrologists 35% 30% Percent (%) 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 30 and Under 31 to 40 41 to 50 51 to 60 61 and Over Age Group FIGURE 3-15 Percentage of National Research Program (NRP) hydrologists by age group in 1990. DATA SOURCE: USGS. Percentage National Research Program Hydrologists by Age Group; 2007 50% 45% % NRP Hydrologists 40% P e rc e n t (% ) 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 30 and Under 31 to 40 41 to 50 51 to 60 61 and Over Age Group FIGURE 3-16 Percentage of National Research Program (NRP) hydrologists by age group in 2007. DATA SOURCE: USGS.

OCR for page 48
Preparing for Tomorrow 73 A particular strength of WRD is its capability for multi and interdisci- plinary approaches to the analysis of the components of the hydrologic cycle and its management. For example, the agency monitors the quanti- ties and quality of surface and groundwaters. In recent years, it has ex- tended its concern “upstream” by linking these measurements with infor- mation on rainfall, snowmelt, and the conditions of watersheds through empirical analysis of data collected by other agencies and by development of its own modeling capabilities to address both land use effects and cli- mate change on water resources. Looking “downstream” within the hy- drologic cycle, the agency is involved in data collection on the water qual- ity and ecological functioning of natural and impacted aquatic ecosystems. It continues to expand its analysis of water availability and use, as well as the functioning and restoration potential of large coastal water bodies such as San Francisco Bay, the California Bay-delta, Chesapeake Bay, the Mis- sissippi Delta, and the Florida Everglades (Chapter 2). The involvement of WRD in the linked systems that constitute our water resources and their management problems, from climate to the sea, positions the agency as a critical contributor and potentially a leader of efforts to advise govern- ments and the public in addressing the expanding water-related issues. The interdisciplinary nature of the WRD can also provide flexibility, which ideally can allow the agency to adjust rapidly to emerging concerns, whether they are the environmental role of new chemicals or nanoparticles, atmospheric connections that affect regional-scale water resources, or the terrestrial and atmospheric linkages associated with warming of boreal regions. The broad geographic reach of WRD, with its offices in all fifty states also means that the agency has a means of keeping its finger on the pulse of changes in water resources and their use across the country and the potential to recognize changes and emerging issues at an early stage. The agency is also well-placed to participate in, or even facilitate construc- tive resolution of interstate water-resource conflicts because it is involved in monitoring and analyzing the behavior of water resources (rivers, lakes, and aquifers) that cross state boundaries. What we are describing is a long-standing WRD tradition of studying the impact of human activities on natural resources such as land, water resources, and ecosystems. This fundamental tradition facilitates, not only thorough effective assessments by the agency itself, and it prepares WRD personnel to collaborate with and even to provide interdisciplinary leader- ship among other agencies, that generally have a more narrow disciplinary focus in, for example, atmospheric science, or land and wildlife manage- ment. The issue of whether society can manage resources sustainably in the face of population growth, wealth production, and climatic uncertainty

OCR for page 48
74 Toward A Sustainable and Secure Water Future has become the signature environmental issue of our age, and the USGS, and particularly WRD, are ideally suited to play a leadership role in a national strategy for sustainable resource management.