issues, followed by background on approaches and issues, and concludes with a statement of priority issues facing the nation in the coming years.
NAWQA divided priority issues for Cycle 3 into two categories: 1. Stakeholder Issues Related to Major Environmental Drivers, and 2. Stakeholder Issues related to Water Quality Stressors. Eleven topical priorities were itemized within the two categories (five drivers, six stressors). Under each priority issue, NAWQA described the nature and scope of the issues articulated by various stakeholders, the program’s role and approaches to address the designated issues, and partnerships and collaborative opportunities related to each issue.
Although the Science Framework is a logical and well written document containing an extensive list of water quality issues facing the nation, there remains opportunity for focus and greater clarity. We offer the following suggestions to refocus and reframe the Science Framework. Our intent is to highlight the already achieved and potential scientific impact of the NAWQA program which is critical to future success of NAWQA as it moves into and through Cycle 3. NAWQA is a successful program (NRC 2002, 2009) as it stands and our suggestions are to further improve and help protect what the program already has achieved.
From the beginning, a premise of the NAWQA program was a water quality program with national impact and coverage. NAWQA’s commitment to national level work should be prefaced by a vision for water quality at the national scale. A national water quality program should include national scale surveillance, scenario development, and forecasting. (Scenario development considers how changing land use conditions and climate, for example, may affect water quality in different settings.) It should characterize and evaluate the quality of the nation’s waters and serve as a tool for water policy and decision makers in their evaluations of the nation’s water resources and their establishment of policies in areas that consider water quality. To this end, the Science Framework, as presented, moves in this direction but needs to be far more explicit than implicit in its exposition. The committee recommends that NAWQA better articulate its vision first and foremost in the document and then explicitly describe the value of the program to the nation’s water policy and decision makers.
Immediately after presentation of a well articulated vision, NAWQA should outline clarified program principles that are “front loaded” in the planning document. Program principles orient the NAWQA program within the USGS and the federal government. Perhaps most importantly, program principles serve as an internal assessment and guide to keep the program focused and on target. In the following, we highlight program principles and encourage NAWQA to continue this endeavor, making these words their own. We begin with suggesting that the first two program principles address the following points:
Clearly define and adhere to what national means to NAWQA—perhaps to lay down a marker as to where the programmatic tipping point may be from a truly national program to one that lacks adequate spatial coverage and representativeness of conditions to be counted as such. This marker should incorporate consideration of the impacts of abandonment of Study