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 resources 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 Aquifer). 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 challenges. For perspective, we outline some key trends for water resources that must be faced in the coming years.
In “Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and How to Prevent Them,” Bazerman and Watkins (2004), describe the characteristics of Predictable Surprises that may affect society or businesses: