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Executive Summary Today, every community seems to be facing some type of water crisis. The nation's newspapers report daily on droughts, floods, contaminated water supplies, eutrophied lakes, lost wetlands' anticipated impacts of global change, and myriad other problems that affect our health, environment, and economy. Environmental matters have taken a primary place on the nation's agenda of concerns, alongside other prominent issues like energy supply and defense appropriations. At the same time, water management problems have come to present greater scientific challenges. A century ago, the primary concern of government hydrologists was locating water for agriculture. In contrast, today's hydrologists face an array of questions, including: how contaminants move in aquifers, how climate change might affect water supplies, and how wetlands influence ecosystems. There is a new movement in the scientific community--motivated by the need to solve today's problems and interest in unlocking puzzles that may solve future problems--to enhance the development of water sciences. The principal federal nonregulatory organization charged with investigating water science questions is the Water Resources Division (WRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). As the science of hydrology has increased in complexity, so too have the activities of the WRD. With public attention focused on water resources issues, now is a good time for the WRD to evaluate its programs to determine whether they will be able to provide answers to the questions the public is asking now or will likely ask in the future.
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2 Preparing for the Twenty-First Century This report's goal is to advise the WRD on how it can marshal its resources most effectively to confront emerging water resources problems. The report represents the views of the National Research Council's Committee on USGS Water Resources Research. The committee was convened in 1985 specifically to provide guidance to the WRD. Its 12 members represent the fields of environmental sciences and engineering, microbial biochem- istry, ecology, meteorology, soil science, hydrology and hydro- geology, and environmental economics (see the Appendix). Since the committee was established, it has advised the agency on a variety of broad and narrow scientific, research, and programmatic issues. Here, the committee has shifted its focus from short-term technological and management issues to long- range planning. The report is addressed primarily to WRD managers; it is meant to provide them with a concise outline of the committee's ideas for the WRD's role in the future. The report covers many issues of program management that unforeseen developments may influence. Therefore, the com- mittee's conclusions and recommendations are not fixed, but can evolve. We hope that USGS management and others will view this report as contributing to their basis for making decisions, while bearing in mind the continually changing context for the issues the report discusses. Below is a summary of recommendations. The summary parallels the order of topics discussed in Chapters 2 through 4. (Chapter 1, which provides background information about the WRD, does not contain recommendations.) RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CHAPTER 2 External Interaction As water science problems become more interdisciplinary, WRD cooperation with other federal agencies, states, universities, and research organizations will become increasingly important. Therefore: · The WRD should undertake more cooperative research efforts with other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture, which are also involved in answering water science questions.
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Executive Summary 3 · The WRD should encourage states to continue to develop their own expertise in water science. Increased state involvement in water science would provide state support for local resource management programs and would free WRD personnel for activi- ties of a regional or national scope and/or general scientific relevance. · The WRD should undertake more cooperative investiga- tions with university scientists at field sites administered by the WRD, such as the Cape Cod Toxic Waste Research Site, and at sites administered by the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research Program. · The WRD should continue to seek opportunities to expand its relations with universities to ensure the development of necessary human resources for the future. Technology Transfer Ensuring that WRD research and study results move beyond the laboratory or field sites requires that the WRD disseminate as widely as possible the information it generates. To promote efficient technology transfer: · The WRD should streamline its internal review process to enable its scientists to publish their research promptly in the refereed literature. · The WRD should expand its role in sponsoring conferences, workshops, and seminars. · The WRD should establish an internal technical newsletter to improve communication among district offices and between districts and the National Research Program. · The WRD should establish a policy newsletter to improve communication between WRD scientists and USGS management. Education Education experts predict a shortage of scientists and engi- neers in the future. To help ensure a future pool of well-educated employees: · The WRD should consider establishing fellowships for graduate students.
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4 . Preparing for the Twenty-First Century · WRD district offices should offer more part-time or summer employment to college students. The WRD should allot more funds for projects that involve research by graduate students. . WRD district office staff should create more opportunities to educate primary-school, secondary-school, and college students by participating in science fairs, hosting field trips and open houses for students at all levels, and preparing special educational materials utilizing information established through the agency's various technical programs. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CHAPTER 3 Areas for WRD Research The WRD should try to develop programs that focus on areas at the top of the national agenda. Eight key areas for WRD research are: · analyzing contaminant transport in aquifers; · integrating scientific knowledge with public policy options for water supply management; · analyzing links between water resources and climate change; · analyzing trends in water quality; · conducting research and developing methods for improved estimation of the probabilities of droughts and floods; · determining the roles of wetlands in whole drainage basins; · minimizing human-produced eutrophication and sedimen- tation in lakes and reservoirs; and · analyzing transport and flow processes in estuaries, har- bors, and bays. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM CHAPTER 4 Apportioning Resources Among WRD Programs To free resources for future challenges, the WRD will need to evaluate its current programs to determine which ones should be scaled back and which ones deserve enhancement. Our recom- mendations for the three broad areas (data collection, problem
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Executive Summary 5 evaluation, and fundamental research) that encompass most WRD programs are: · Data collection: The WRD should maintain its stream gaging network because the network is essential for under- standing long-term changes in basin hydrology; yet the network should not remain static. The- network needs expansion in some areas. For example, more gages are needed in small basins, and data collection that serves only a single user (as opposed to contributing to the national network or to furthering scientific knowledge) should be discontinued. · Problem evaluation: The WRD should decrease the fraction of district resources allotted to strictly local projects and increase the fraction allotted to regional-scale projects and projects with general scientific or national benefit. · Fundamental research: To promote the research needed to provide the base upon which the WRD will build its operational side in the future, the WRD should: (1) increase funding for fundamental research to 30 to 35 percent of its total budget, (2) continue administering the grants program authorized under the Water Resources Research Act, and (3) encourage fundamental research by qualified staff at the district level. Reorganizing to Meet Future Challenges Evaluating complex water science problems requires that a critical mass of scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines interact on a continuing basis. To ensure the presence of this critical mass: · The WRD should consider combining several smaller districts into larger units. · The WRD should foster close cooperation, based on joint projects, between districts and the National Research Program. Reevaluating the WRD Mission Statement For effective future planning: · WRD managers should reevaluate and update the WRD mission statement.
Representative terms from entire chapter: