Hydrologic Hazards Science at 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 Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1999



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--> Hydrologic Hazards Science at 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 Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1999

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--> 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. International Standard Book Number 0-309-06282-9 Copies of this report are available from the Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20418. Cover by Van Nguyen, National Academy Press, using photos provided by U.S. Geological Survey. Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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--> COMMITTEE ON U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH KENNETH R. BRADBURY (Chairman), Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, Madison VICTOR R. BAKER, University of Arizona, Tucson ANA P. BARROS, Pennsylvania State University, University Park MICHAEL E. CAMPANA, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque KIMBERLY A. GRAY, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois C. THOMAS HAAN, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater DAVID H. MOREAU, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill CYNTHIA L. PAULSON, Brown & Caldwell, Denver, Colorado (through July 1998) STUART S. SCHWARTZ, Hydrologic Research Center, San Diego, California LEONARD SHABMAN, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg KAY D. THOMPSON, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 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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--> WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD HENRY J. VAUX, JR. (Chair), University of California, Oakland CAROL A. JOHNSTON (Vice Chair), University of Minnesota, Duluth RICHELLE M. ALLEN-KING, Washington State University, Pullman JOHN S. BOYER, University of Delaware, Lewes JOHN BRISCOE, The World Bank, Washington, D.C. DENISE FORT, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque EVILLE GORHAM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul CHARLES D.D. HOWARD, Charles Howard and Associates, Victoria, British Columbia WILLIAM A. JURY, University of California, Riverside WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., University of Colorado, Boulder GARY S. LOGSDON, Black & Veatch, Cincinnati, Ohio RICHARD G. LUTHY, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JOHN W. MORRIS, J.W. Morris Ltd., Arlington, Virginia CHARLES R. O'MELIA, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland PHILLIP A. PALMER, DuPont Engineering, Wilmington, Delaware REBECCA T. PARKIN, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. JOAN B. ROSE, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg ERIC F. WOOD, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director JACQUELINE MACDONALD, Associate Director CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer LAURA EHLERS, Staff Officer JEFFREY JACOBS, Staff Officer JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant ELLEN DE GUZMAN, Senior Project Assistant MARK GIBSON, Research Associate KIMBERLY SWARTZ, Project Assistant

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--> COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER (Chairman), University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts JUDITH E. MCDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. HUGH C. MORRIS, Canadian Global Change Program, Delta, British Columbia RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT M. HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY H. SYMMES, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative and Financial Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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--> 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 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 I. 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 vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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--> 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 the work of the WRD in science and technology relevant to hydrologic hazards, which include droughts, flooding, and related phenomena, such as debris flows. Natural hazards-related work can be found in programs throughout the USGS; some of the activities (e.g., debris flow assessment or hazards communication efforts) offer excellent opportunities for multidisciplinary, cross-divisional, and interagency collaboration. Within the WRD, hydrologic hazards-related work is dispersed throughout, providing some of the most challenging subject matter for research, interpretive studies, and data collection efforts. Losses of life and property due to hydrologic hazards in the United States are large—over $2.5 billion per year in direct damages and 100 lives annually due to floods alone. While the nation has struggled with various approaches to control river flows or avoid their ravages, these damages and losses continue to increase. Construction of hydraulic projects for water control was the national choice for decades until 30 years ago, when alternative insurance-based land management and "mitigation" activities began to become an accepted strategy to reduce human and property exposure. In either case, sophisticated understanding of hydrologic

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--> and hydraulic processes, data essential to hydrologic analyses, and the development and dissemination of information provide the underlying bases for policy and management. Streamflow data collected by the USGS for over 100 years and the modern water science and technology carried out by the WRD form the cornerstone for national, regional, and local efforts to cope with hydrologic hazards by providing continued, up-to-date information about water conditions and understanding of hydrologic phenomena. This report attempts to help shape and improve the overall framework for the USGS's efforts relevant to hydrologic hazards. The report addresses hydrologic research needs; issues associated with the all-important stream gaging network; assessment and interpretation methods; and coordination, dissemination, and outreach activities. A short report such as this, prepared by an outside group such as ours, cannot provide an in-depth assessment of all germane WRD programs and projects but instead is a more general document intended to provide strategic advice to WRD management. The committee began its review in late 1996, when it laid out plans for the study. Subsequently, the committee met four times before completing this report. At meetings, members were briefed by USGS personnel on a variety of programs and activities. The committee learned about WRD's efforts relevant to hydrologic hazards in many hydrologic regions. Briefings on and/or visits to such diverse issues and sites as the 1988–1992 North Dakota drought, flood hazard information dissemination in Louisiana, Mt. Rainier flow hazards, coordinated water management in the Pacific Northwest, the floods of 1997 on the Red River of the North, and research in such topics as discharge frequency analysis, hydroclimatology, bridge scour, and new hydrologic technologies provided invaluable information for review and assessment. Committee members drafted individual contributions and deliberated as a group to achieve consensus on the content of this report. We hope that by maintaining a broad, forward-looking perspective, our assessment will prove useful. As the study proceeded and the committee became more cognizant of USGS activities, productive discussions occurred among committee members and personnel from the USGS and other organizations. This interaction was critical to the success of the project. The committee heard from more than 20 USGS staff members and several individuals from the National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other organizations. The list of individuals providing information to the committee is too long to include in this preface, but we are indebted for the many perspectives and for the information provided. We do wish to single out three individuals from the USGS who interacted throughout the project and thank them for the assistance, information, and cooperation they provided: Thomas H. Yorke, Jr., chief of the Office of Surface Water; Robert M. Hirsch, chief hydrologist; and Gail E. Mallard, hydrologist, who serves as USGS's continuing liaison with our committee. We also wish to acknowledge the NRC's Board on Natural Disasters (BOND, a "sister" unit of the Water Science and

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--> Technology Board), which provided some assistance with this project. Notably, BOND members James (Jeff) F. Kimpel participated in some of our deliberations and contributed written input, and Frank H. Thomas participated in the review (see below). The committee hopes that this report will help promote development and appreciation for improved hydrologic data, information, and knowledge as it supports the nation's efforts to reduce the tolls of hydrologic hazards. Continued, significant, and successful contributions to this area of hydrologic science by the USGS are essential. This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's (NRC) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscripts remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: S. "Rocky" Durrans, University of Alabama; George M. Hornberger, University of Virginia; L. Douglas James, National Science Foundation; Rebecca T. Parkin, The George Washington University; Marc Parlange, The Johns Hopkins University; and Frank H. Thomas, consultant. While the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests with the authoring committee and the NRC. KENNETH R. BRADBURY CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON USGS WATER RESOURCE RESEARCH

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--> Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Introduction   4 2   Water Management and Information Needs   7 3   Data Collection, Techniques Development, and Research   23 4   Interpretive Studies   34 5   Communicating Information on Hydrologic Hazards   49 6   Conclusions and Recommendations   63     References   70     Biographical Sketches of Committee Members   76

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