In Chapter 3 we outline future trends in water resources that are “predictable surprises” (sensu Bazerman and Watkins (2004); Box 3-1)— trends and foreseeable problems that will not solve themselves:

  • Problems of water availability will become increasingly serious and more prominent,

  • Climate change will make water resources challenges more difficult,

  • Water quality impairments will continue to be a daunting issue,

  • Water prices will rise,

  • Resolving water conflicts and policy debates will demand more water science.

Our nation’s water resources, though considerable, have always been finite. Population growth, climate change, and other pressures on this finite resource will trigger conflicts and constraints on social and economic stability of the nation (Mehan, 2009). Water resource constraints are foreseeable consequences of these trends that drive the need for more and improved water science (World Economic Forum, 2009).

Almost every water-resources management issue is fundamentally and inextricably interdisciplinary, which makes the engagement of the WRD uniquely appropriate and effective in complex resource assessments. The WRD has the ability to mount interdisciplinary studies, particularly in cooperation with its sister Disciplines. While well placed to respond to predictable surprises, the USGS does operate with constraints, such as a lack of discretionary funding and an apparent (in our briefings) lack of full support for its role as “The Nation’s Earth Science Agency” (the title on its website and elsewhere). Compared to its data acquisition and mapping contributions, the value of its scientific contributions is not as well recognized by the Department of Interior and other federal agency supporters, posing a problem. The WRD has the range and quality of scientific resources to take the lead in providing the interdisciplinary understanding required to help attack and resolve many of our pending water problems.


The USGS WRD has led the nation in many areas of water resources in the past and continues to lead today in many areas that are relevant to societal needs and particularly related to water quality (Chapter 2) How-

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