As part of this approach, NAWQA will need to:
• focus on core mission areas where it has unique capabilities, for its own implementation efforts;
• leverage resources with other agencies to achieve more of the objectives of the Cycle 3 Science Plan;
• foster higher levels of involvement and investment by other agencies;
• help others design their own mission-critical programs to meet identified national objectives of the Cycle 3 Science Plan without NAWQA’s direct involvement; and
• explore incentives, for example, access to NAWQA technical assistance, which will enable more sharing of effort for data collection, analysis, and technological innovation across the program.
The committee believes that advantages may exist in pursuing this approach. For example, NAWQA has a high concentration of water-quality analysts, and thus it may be able to offer technical assistance at lower cost than partners could procure through hiring or contracting on their own. At the same time, partners may have the capacity to collect field samples at less cost than NAWQA staff by virtue of their proximity to sampling sites and their flexibility to engage labor on an intermittent or part-time basis.
To operate in this more expansive mode, NAWQA should consider engaging partners and collaborators more directly in the development of mutual science plans, seamless exchanges of data and information, and joint implementation of work plans that identify shared responsibilities and accountability. Collaboration could be particularly critical at this point in time given the current fiscal climate and the continued decline of monitoring networks in the United States. Collaboration within USGS could serve as a starting point and a model between NAWQA and others outside USGS. NAWQA authored a forward-thinking comprehensive water-quality strategy for the nation during a climate of strained fiscal resources. This is an opportune time for NAWQA to bring together the federal agencies involved in water-quality monitoring and research and, using the Science Plan as a starting point, to develop a collaborative water-quality strategy for the nation.