Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey

Committee on U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research

Water Science and Technology Board

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Academy Press
Washington, D.C.
1997



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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey Committee on U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research Water Science and Technology Board Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Academy Press Washington, D.C. 1997

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey under Grant No. 1434-93-A-0982. Copies of this report are available from the Water Science and Technology Board, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20418. Cover art by Angela Brubaker. Angela is a research assistant with the Water Science and Technology Board staff. The sketch is intended to convey an image of the relationship between the "scales" of interest in hydrology, a characteristic that presents one of the great challenges to the science. Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey COMMITTEE ON U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chairman, University of Virginia, Charlottesville LISA ALVAREZ-COHEN, University of California, Berkeley KENNETH R. BRADBURY, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, Madison KIMBERLY A. GRAY, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois C. THOMAS HAAN, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater CONSTANCE HUNT, World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. DAWN S. KABACK, Colorado Center for Environmental Management, Denver DAVID H. MOREAU, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill CYNTHIA L. PAULSON, Brown & Caldwell, Denver, Colorado FREDERICK G. POHLAND, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania LEONARD SHABMAN, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg MITCHELL J. SMALL, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania DAVID A. WOOLHISER, Colorado State University, Fort Collins National Research Council Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Project Director ANITA A. HALL, Project Assistant

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD DAVID L. FREYBERG, Chair, Stanford University, Stanford, California BRUCE E. RITTMANN, Vice Chair, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois LINDA M. ABRIOLA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JOHN BRISCOE, The World Bank, Washington, D.C. WILLIAM M. EICHBAUM, The World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. WILFORD R. GARDNER, University of California, Berkeley EVILLE GORHAM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul THOMAS M. HELLMAN, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York, New York CHARLES D.D. HOWARD, Charles Howard and Associates, Victoria, British Columbia CAROL A. JOHNSTON, University of Minnesota, Duluth WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., University of Colorado, Boulder JOHN W. MORRIS, J.W. Morris Ltd., Arlington, Virginia CHARLES R. O'MELIA, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland REBECCA T. PARKIN, American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C. IGNACIO RODRIGUEZ-ITURBE, Texas A&M University, College Station FRANK W. SCHWARTZ, Ohio State University, Columbus HENRY J. VAUX, JR., University of California, Riverside Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director SHEILA D. DAVID, Senior Staff Officer CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer JACQUELINE MACDONALD, Senior Staff Officer GARY D. KRAUSS, Staff Officer JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate ANGELA F. BRUBAKER, Research Assistant ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant ELLEN de GUZMAN, Senior Project Assistant STEPHANIE VANN, Project Assistant

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair, University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JAMES P. BRUCE, Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario WILLIAM L. FISHER, University of Texas, Austin JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA S. KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts PERRY L. MCCARTY, Stanford University, Stanford, California JUDITH E. McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington and Burling, Washington, D.C. S. GEORGE PHILANDER, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park ELLEN K. SILBERGELD, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer JAMES E. MALLORY, Administrative Officer SANDRA S. FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is interim president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth l. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey Preface This report is a product of the Committee on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Research, which provides consensus advice to the Water Resources Division (WRD) of the USGS on scientific, research, and programmatic issues. The committee is one of the groups that works under the auspices of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council. The committee considers a variety of topics that are important scientifically and programmatically to the USGS and the nation and issues reports when appropriate. This report concerns WRD watershed research activities. Within the USGS, this work is dispersed in a number of WRD program areas, including basic research, regional and site assessments, and data collection activities. The work of the USGS in this area is important, as government agencies with natural resource management responsibilities are exploring the potential for program integration on a watershed basis. The interest in program integration and multiple-objective watershed management creates new demands for understanding of and information on hydrologic processes and related chemical, physical, and biological effects. Improvements in our understanding of the total ecosystem within a watershed, including the complex interrelationships among the various components, are needed. This report addresses an overall framework for the agency's research in watershed systems while suggesting general areas of scientific opportunity, including communications and education. The report does not represent an in-depth review of all germane WRD watershed-related programs and projects but instead is intended to provide strategic advice to WRD management. The committee began this project in November 1994, with briefings by USGS personnel and the selection of a set of questions to be addressed.

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey Subsequently, the committee met five more times before completing this report. At the meetings committee members were briefed by USGS personnel on a variety of watershed-related programs and visited USGS field sites at Panola Mountain, Georgia, and Luquillo Experiment Forest, Puerto Rico. Committee members drafted individual contributions and deliberated as a group to achieve consensus on the content of this report. As the committee became more cognizant of USGS watershed-related activities, productive discussions occurred between committee members and USGS personnel. This interaction was critical to the success of the project. The committee is particularly grateful to Dr. Robert M. Hirsch, chief hydrologist, Dr. Harry F. Lins, WRD hydrologist, and their colleagues for all the information and cooperation they provided. It is hoped that this report will convey the importance of understanding hydrologic processes in a watershed context and will lead to improvements in watershed and environmental management, consistent with society's broader goal of sustainable development. Successful work by the USGS in this area is very important to making progress in this critical aspect of hydrologic science. George M. Hornberger, Chair Committee on U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   INTRODUCTION   4 2   WATERSHED RESEARCH FOR WATER MANAGEMENT   6     Watersheds in Resource Management   8     Implications for Research   18 3   SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE FOR WATERSHED RESEARCH   15     Watersheds as Environmental Laboratories   20     Hydrologic Models   21     A Brief History of Watershed Research   23     Directions for USGS Activity in Watershed Science   27 4   SCIENTIFIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR USGS   33     Focus Areas and Issues in Watershed Research   33     Potential for Watershed Research to Address Needs   57 5   CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS   70     Watershed Research Program Ingredients   70

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Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey     Addressing the Issues of Larger Watersheds   72     Increased Attention to the Urban Setting   72     Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems   73     New Attention to Sediment Transport   73     Involvement of Students in Watershed Research   74     REFERENCES   75     BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS   83