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4 Future WRD Organization Water resources problems are no longer as scientifically straightforward as the mapping of streams for irrigation that occupied USGS researchers a century ago. As mentioned in Chapter 2, solving today's complex problems requires inter- disciplinary teams of scientists who work together on problems of national interest. For example, predicting the fate of a ground water contaminant requires knowledge not only of ground water flow and contaminant transport but also of chemistry (to resolve whether the contaminant reacts with other substances in the water and surrounding media) and biology (to determine whether organisms degrade the contaminant). Preventing premature aging of a lake requires knowledge not only of the lake but also of the entire watershed to determine the sources of excess nutrients. To meet the coming challenges, in the next 25 years, the WRD will need to direct more resources toward interdisciplinary, multi- scale research projects. At the same time, the WRD will need to maintain its data networks and, where appropriate, continue its involvement in solving local problems. This chapter suggests how the WRD can allocate its resources to cultivate multiscale projects in the three areas that encompass most of its work: data collec- tion, problem evaluation, and fundamental research. The chapter also recommends how a WRD reorganization could promote inter- disciplinary and regional research. EVALUATING THE THREE PROGRAM AREAS Below are suggestions for how each of the WRD's three program areas could be enhanced or scaled back to meet emerging water resources challenges. 31
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32 Pre paring for the Twenty-First Century Long-term Data Collection The USGS currently operates about 7,000 stream gaging stations. Maintaining this network is critical to documenting and understanding long-term changes in basin hydrology. To an increasing extent, human activity is altering stream flows significantly, usually with an adverse impact. For example, urbanization increases flood flows and decreases drought flows. Climate change, too, may affect water supplies. For monitoring long-term variations in water supplies, continuous records of stream flow at sites that are part of a national network must be maintained indefinitely into the future. The current network cannot remain static. The data network needs to be expanded in some areas. For example, more gages are needed in smaller basins, especially where the physical character- istics that affect runoff are relatively homogeneous. Gages set in smaller basins would serve three purposes. First, they could collect the data essential for testing the influence of physical variables (e.g., runoff, rainfall, soil properties, vegetation, and topography) on the scaleup of models from small to large basins. Second, they could form a representative network of sites for evaluating new measurement techniques (e.g., monitoring soil moisture with time-domain reflectometry probes, tracking · - vegetation or soil moisture with remote sensors, and determining flow paths and residence times in catchments by recording concentrations of stable oxygen and hydrogen isotopes). And third, they could produce data to further understand runoff generation, flood-wave propagation, channel erosion, sediment transport, and other processes. Though the WRD's data networks need expanding in most places, there may be locations where data collection is serving only a single user (as opposed to contributing to the national network or to furthering scientific knowledge) and should be discontinued. Such decisions, however, should be made only after careful consideration. Problem Evaluation The types of problems the WRD helps local governments address range vastly in scope: from large, regional projects such as the investigation of saltwater intrusion into the Hudson River to small projects such as determining the amount of a particular agricultural chemical in the runoff of a midwestern farm field.
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Future WRD Organizatio,. 33 .~ ~ ~ ~ : ~ ~ :~ : ~: : . it. ~ :: ~ By: ,_ _~_e-= ~.,~ _ ~...... i. .~. ~ :: ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ .. ....: FIGURE 7 Processing large-volume water samples from Lake Hoare: the filtration unit is in the sled on the left, the 10-gallon milk cans are used to collect the water from the filtration unit, and the crates are used to transport the full milk cans by helicopter to the research laboratory at McMurdo Station. CREDIT: U.S. Geological Survey, E. D. Andrews. The committee believes that, in the future, the fraction of district resources allotted to regional-scale projects must be increased. Research into how to measure, interpret, and quantify ground water flow and water quality in extensive regional aquifers should receive more attention than studies of contamination at one site. We are not implying here that attention to smaller sites is not important, because basic scientific questions often demand intensive observation and experimentation at the local level. But districts will need to be able to deal with regional problems as well as those bounded by state lines. The WRD will have to ensure that in the future, its district offices are structured to handle studies that cover several states and require expertise from a range of disciplines.
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34 Pre paring for the Twenty-First Century Fundamental Research Increased fundamental water science research will be necessary to address increasingly complex water and environ- mental management issues. . · · · ~ · . This research is essential for providing the sc~ent~~~c base upon which the WRD will build future programs. In the WRD, such research is carried out mostly under the auspices of the National Research Prgram, centered at three of the agency's four regional offices (Reston, Lakewood, and Menlo Park). We have three recommendations relating to how the WRD can enhance its fundamental research programs. First, the WRD should increase funding for fundamental research. Currently, fundamental research receives 15 to 25 percent of the total WRD budget. We recommend that the WRD boost this allotment to 30 to 35 percent, primarily for experi- mental and field support of basic research. Though this goal may be difficult to achieve because of budgetary and workforce con- straints and existing obligations, the WRD should aim for this level of funding to ensure its ability to address as yet uniden- tified problems. Second, we believe the WRD should continue to administer the grants program authorized under the Water Resources Research Act. The current arrangement, though it is funded at a grossly inadequate level, benefits the WRD, the university research community, the states and regions in which the Water Resources Research Institutes are located, and the water resources profession in general. The WRD, perhaps more than any other agency, has knowledge of scientific needs, a research tradition, and the capability to disseminate and in some cases use directly the research results that the grants program generates. A challenge now is for the WRD to enhance the current low level of funding ($4.4 million appropriated in FY 1991 for the grants program, compared to an authorized level of $20 million)--either with new money or through the reallocation of other research funding available to the WRD. Further, the WRD should encourage fundamental research at the district level. The WRD has already made some progress in expanding district-level research. Both the Merit Project System (a competition among districts for research funds) and the Research Grade Evaluation Guide (which allows district per- sonnel to be evaluated on research productivity rather than on more traditional measures) have increased interest in research at
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Future WRD Organization 35 the district level. In addition, programs such as the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program have fostered collaborative efforts between districts and National Research Program personnel at common research sites. REORGANIZING TO MEET FUTURE CHALLENGES Currently, WRD district budgets vary by a factor of 10: the smallest districts have annual budgets of about $1.5 million, while the larger districts have budgets of nearly $15 million annually. The uneven resource distribution has resulted in a vicious circle for small districts: lacking resources (staff, lab equipment, and personnel), they cannot develop large projects that would increase their revenue; lacking revenue, they cannot invest in the resources necessary for supporting large projects. The discrepancy in WRD district size may inhibit efficient coordination of the large-scale multidisciplinary projects that will likely dominate WRD pro- grams in the future. Solving large research problems and carrying out complex programs (e.g., NAWQA) requires a critical mass of scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines interacting on a continuing basis. This critical mass may be reached most efficiently when resources are consolidated instead of being spread across numerous small districts that lack the resources to take on large projects. One possible way to surmount the difficulties the small dis- tricts face and to ensure a critical mass of scientists for large projects is to combine several smaller districts into larger units, which we will call centers. The centers would cover several states or river basins. (Combination by basin is preferred because it is more defensible scientif ically, but combination by states is probably more practical for implementing federal/state coopera- tive programs.) Each center could have three subsections: one to direct federal/state cooperative programs, one to oversee data collection for federal programs like NAWQA, and one to under- take fundamental research. Each center's research section could house a staff of scientists who would form a center of excellence for a specialized water science discipline. (In New England, for example, the district office might host a center of excellence for glacial aquifer research.) Where possible, centers could be co- located with major universities to provide intellectual stimuli through seminars, access to libraries, and peer interactions. (One example of a WRD office interacting with an academic commu
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36 Preparing for the Twenty-First Century nity is the association between the Menlo Park office and Stanford University.) Cooperation between these centers and the National Research Program could be encouraged by temporarily assigning research program scientists to centers or vice versa. Consolidated centers, unlike independent small districts, could afford to hire multidisciplinary staffs (hydrologists, geologists, . · . · . · · , ~ . ~ · ~ . Larger engineers, chemists, biologists, and mathematlclans). offices would be more attractive to Ph.D.-level scientists because they would offer the opportunity to conduct theoretical research and apply that research to real problems. Likewise, practicing professionals at large offices could learn to use the newest scientific advances in their everyday work. In addition to large scientific staffs, centers could afford sophisticated lab equip- ment, lab technicians, and advanced computer systems. Consolidating small districts is one way to reorganize the WRD; other organizational models might be equally effective. However, without undertaking an extensive study of the WRD's organization and structure, we cannot offer a specific course of action that will meet the objectives sketched in this report. Regardless of which organizational model the WRD chooses, reorganization must be implemented with great care and delibera- tion. Though some schemes for reorganization may appear attrac- tive in the abstract, pitfalls that decrease efficiency must be avoided. For example, we have suggested consolidated centers as one organizational model, but the additional administrative layers that accompany larger offices could increase the layers of bureaucracy to the point of slowing research. Combining offices could also endanger contact with local and state governments and citizens' groups; unique geographic problems in geology demand that the WRD maintain a strong presence at the state level. Further, it is important to consider the morale of personnel in one-state districts that would be combined. Employees must see their roles as being undiminished under any reorganization. Despite potential difficulties, we believe that changes in the structure of the WRD will be required to keep pace with changes in its future mission. REEVALUATING THE WRD MISSION STATEMENT The recommendations this report offers could form the basis for the WRD to update its mission statement to provide a frame
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Future WRD Organization 37 work for long-term planning. The statement should identify the WRD's strengths, such as its long-term databases and its nation- wide network of hydrologists, and its weaknesses, such as the need for more interdisciplinary water science research into problems with h igh social interest. In updating its mission statement, the WRD should encourage input from all parts of the agency as well as from outside experts. A coherent- national program cannot emerge by sweeping together a loosely related collection of initiatives that originate in the districts or from individual scientists. High-level WRD scientific staff and management should provide the "big picture" and the comprehen- sive long-term vision needed to build and guide the types of coherent national and district programs from which budget · e ~ · · e 1nltlatlves originate.
Representative terms from entire chapter: