Integration and Coordination with Existing Networks
The WATERS Science Plan (Dozier et al., 2009) envisions a set of activities and observatories that could transform the nation’s capabilities in water research and the way in which science is used in water resource management decisions. While transforming water research within the academic community is a primary goal of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for WATERS, the project also needs to involve other agencies to build on the existing foundation of hydrologic data and to ensure a more lasting implementation. A requirement of Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) funding is the “coordination with other organizations, agencies and countries to ensure complementarity and integration of objectives and potential opportunities for collaboration and sharing of costs” (NSF, 2007). The WATERS Science Plan lists programs in other agencies, but much remains to be done in the conceptual design phase to describe well-defined partnerships with agencies that have water programs.
This chapter describes ways in which the WATERS Network can improve the coordination and integration with federal, state, and local agencies and international organizations. For decades, government agencies have been the collectors of water-related data for both management and scientific purposes. The academic community has relied upon these long-term datasets but has less experience contributing to and managing data collection at these scales. Interagency collaboration could entail at least four possible levels of coordination:
Interaction among researchers so that the WATERS Network team stays abreast of the objectives and findings of related programs and can learn from the experience of agency staff working with similar large-scale data collection and management projects;
Development of policies for sharing data collected through independent initiatives;
Coordination of future data acquisition plans, possibly including agreements between agencies to avoid redundancy and ensure coverage, to improve consistency across datasets based on sampling protocol, or to simplify the sharing of metadata; and
Development of cyberinfrastructure for data sharing and other collaborative activities.
This chapter outlines the specific linkages and activities that WATERS could nurture to build appropriate alliances and to help secure the full benefits of the program. The degree of optimal coordination, however, may ultimately depend on the data sharing and cyberinfrastructure challenges encountered, as discussed in Chapter 2.
WATERS can benefit from and build on the numerous existing hydrologic data networks already in operation through federal agencies. Furthermore, the involvement of federal agencies with program responsibilities in the water sector could strengthen the implementation and quality control of the data collection and management aspects of the program.
Areas and agencies where WATERS has established links or anticipates establishing them include:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) efforts related to Integrated Water Resources Science and Services,
National Water Quality Monitoring Council recommendation for a National Water Quality Monitoring Network,
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Availability and Use Assessment,
Federal interagency studies on climate change,
National Research Council (NRC) decadal survey study to guide federal satellite missions,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experimental engineering facilities, and
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) snow measurements.
The committee agrees with the importance of these programs and initiatives and suggests others that should be included in the planning for WATERS. In addition, WATERS would benefit by having some of their sites colocated with sites maintained by federal agencies to take advantage of the long-term datasets to ground-truth remotely sensed data as well as the data management capabilities developed within these agencies. The federal agencies would benefit by being able to collect data that, in the future, require less onsite human labor. Some of the linkages that the committee thinks will be keys to success are discussed below.
The USGS is responsible for the operation of the national surface water and groundwater observational networks for water quantity and quality and the collection, quality control, and analysis of these data for water managers across the country. In addition, they are responsible for geologic, biogeochemical, and biodiversity data and a mapping service. These long-term datasets will provide a baseline and context for many WATERS studies. Some level of interoperability of data systems will need to be maintained between the USGS and WATERS to ensure that WATERS can build on and contribute to the national data systems and ensure that the users derive the benefits of the synergies that exist between the USGS and WATERS.
Within the USGS, the WATERS team would benefit from interacting with the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). The program addresses questions that are central to the WATERS science agenda, including: (1) What is the condition of our nation’s streams and groundwater; (2) how is water quality changing over time; and (3) how do natural features and human activities affect the quality of streams and groundwater? The USGS also can support the data-gathering and management activities of WATERS. Among other things, NAWQA provides comparison of data across sites in 42 of the nation’s most important river basins and aquifer systems by using some of the same analytical measurements. Other USGS data programs of relevance to WATERS include the National Streamflow Information Program, the USGS stream-gauging program long-term datasets of the small watershed program (Water, Energy, Biochemical Budgets; WEBB), research sites supported by the National Research Program, and Water Science Centers study sites. In addition to the national programs,
the USGS has field units in every state that could be helpful in consideration for colocation of field sites.
The new instrumentation and data acquisition and handling techniques that will emerge from WATERS could also help to maintain and improve the efficiency and scope of USGS measurement programs.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The WATERS program will rely upon new and existing remote sensing data provided by NASA. Some of the existing missions, however, may not yet be operational when WATERS is implemented. New missions that will provide clear benefits to WATERS include Soil Moisture and Freeze/Thaw for Weather and Water Cycle Processes; Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite II; Geostationary Coastal and Air Pollution Events; LIDAR Surface Topography; and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment II, among others. In addition, WATERS researchers would have access to additional research support through the NASA earth science research program. Many of NASA’s field campaigns could be carried out in collaboration with WATERS, providing new datasets not yet possible to fully envision in the WATERS science plan. For example, NASA operates research aircraft that could be used to supplement some of the surface measurement programs envisioned by WATERS. However, it is unlikely that NASA could provide long-term support for the operation of a regional network unless it was tied to an evolving research project that had gained a long-term NASA funding commitment (such as the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere project).
The potential for loss of critical satellite remote sensing capabilities has been identified as a key risk for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON),6 and it is likely that this will be a consideration for WATERS. In working with NASA, it is important to realize that the agency may have different or shifting priorities associated with the missions that it plans and launches. For example, the NASA program underwent significant adjustments as a result of the recent NRC review (NRC, 2007). Thus, building and maintaining links between WATERS and NASA will be an ongoing effort as the program proceeds. The committee judges that, at the program manager level in NASA, there is support for WATERS developing a sophisticated hydrologic observational capability and an interest in working with WATERS to build the hydrol-
ogy program that would result from this capability, and so there is reason for optimism regarding collaboration.
NASA could benefit from the WATERS Network by using the results of the research in its scientific program and by building stronger collaborations with its observational activities. The science and data that will be delivered by the WATERS Network could be of great value to planning and developing future water-related earth science missions. Currently, NASA has a need for soil moisture measurements that could support its Soil Moisture and Freeze/Thaw for Weather and Water Cycle Processes mission and the development of algorithms for water-related variables and calibration of space-based sensors (as outlined in NRC, 2007). WATERS data and associated research could be of particular importance in addressing scaling issues that are so critical to understanding and interpreting satellite measurements.
NOAA has a mandate to improve forecast capabilities and information services for weather, water, and climate, and a responsibility for national stewardship of marine resources. The research program being proposed by WATERS touches upon a number of the issues of concern to NOAA, creating many potential synergies and opportunities for collaboration. Areas of specific responsibility that will have links with WATERS include the Great Lakes, coastal zones, and NOAA’s nationwide hydrologic and forecast services. WATERS could work with NOAA to take advantage of NOAA’s research platforms.
NOAA will also be a client for WATERS research results. For example, NOAA’s hydrologic services presently do not consider soil moisture and vegetation in a sophisticated way. NOAA would welcome efforts that would facilitate the more effective use of soil moisture and vegetation and evaporation information in hydrologic prediction models. Although the oceanic and atmospheric components of the global observation systems are well coordinated, there is considerable room for improvement in the coordination of terrestrial measurements among the federal agencies. NOAA would be particularly interested in efforts that could lead to more comprehensive information on river and lake levels and discharge measurements.
WATERS has potential to benefit from interactions with EPA in the physical sciences, engineering, and policy domains. Some interactions will require little coordination, as in the use of effluent reporting data from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The WATERS Network has already actively pursued cooperative relationships with EPA at the laboratory level. For example, there is an informal cooperative agreement between WATERS and EPA’s Breidenbach Environmental Research Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the center’s nested sampling sites in the Little Miami River watershed could serve as a prototype sensor network for WATERS. In addition, EPA has an artificial stream facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, that could conceivably be a prototype for the “built environment” concept. WATERS could also benefit from the use of EPA’s technologies such as the standard water quality sondes being deployed to measure standard water quality parameters (e.g., pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature) and biomonitors used to assess stress levels resulting from contaminated water. WATERS could also benefit from EPA expertise and facilities for developing and testing new sampling techniques and advanced laboratory procedures. In turn, EPA could learn a great deal from WATERS, especially where cyberinfrastructure and the cost-effective wireless acquisition of data are involved.
Examples of collaborative studies between WATERS and EPA scientists are occurring in a number of locations including Cincinnati and the Little Miami River site and the water treatment facility on East Fork Lake. Several memoranda of understanding (MOUs) are under development between WATERS and EPA to formalize EPA’s commitment to the WATERS Network.
USDA has a mission to support the development of the agricultural sector in the United States. To accomplish this objective, it maintains data-gathering networks for a wide range of physical and economic variables that will be of interest to WATERS scientists. A critical point of contact for WATERS will be the National Water Management Center which provides assistance, information, and technology on water-related efforts with a view to improving water conservation. This support includes the collection of data through snow and soil moisture networks,
the development of inventories of soil and crop types, groundwater quality and quantity information, and a substantive assessment capability that relies on models. On the economic side, USDA maintains records of crop production and keeps an overview on water usage for agriculture. The USDA mandate also covers the forestry sector, and similar hydrometeorological datasets are gathered in support of forestry operations. USDA also has strong links to agricultural policy and farm aid programs. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service supports research at approximately 100 sites across the country, and these research sites and laboratories may offer additional opportunities for useful collaborations with WATERS.
Other Mission-Oriented Federal Agencies
This report does not attempt to recount exhaustively the wide variety of relevant data networks, laboratories, and research activities that would support WATERS. The agencies and departments discussed here provide a sampling of some of the major interactions based on the Science Plan that was presented. Depending on the specific scientific priorities determined in the future conceptual design, the WATERS Network may also benefit from interactions with agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services (for issues related to pathogens and disease), with the Department of Energy (on issues related to the nexus between water and energy), with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (regarding design criteria and system simulations), with the Department of Homeland Security (on issues related to extreme events and security), and with the U. S. Census Bureau (on issues related to population growth, shifts in employment, socioeconomic conditions, and local governmental institutions).
STATE AND LOCAL AGENCIES
As with WATERS interactions with federal agencies, combining forces with state and local agencies with jurisdiction in various observatory areas could provide WATERS with efficient means of gathering data on the natural, engineered, and human systems affecting water. The WATERS Network will benefit from relevant state and local agencies as well as voluntary organizations that collect data that bear on the engineered and human systems.
There are a number of data-sharing possibilities with state and local governments, utilities, and local organizations, including:
Hydrologic data. State agencies collaborate with federal agencies to maintain hydrologic and water quality monitoring networks. In addition, local agencies may collect more detailed data related to local issues that are not available in national archives.
Water supply and usage data. Many local utilities have water use data at different levels of aggregation that could be made available for research. There may be opportunities to collaborate with local agencies to extend water use monitoring through more extensive surveys.
Water quality and habitat data. State and local agencies may be able to provide estimates of effluent discharges, water quality measurements, and impacts on biological systems for assessing pollution sources.
Water user information. Local groups such as cooperatives and nongovernmental organizations can assist in gathering annual data from their members related directly to water usage and help with studies of public attitudes toward current regulations and perceptions of water-related issues.
Water-related policy information. State and local agencies with jurisdictions within the study areas of WATERS observatories could provide information on ongoing rulemaking and permitting decisions required to assess the impact of policies on hydrologic observations and of hydrologic observations on policy processes.
Given that the state and local levels will have much greater diversity in the formats and procedures for collecting and archiving data, WATERS will have to consider several issues when dealing with the state and local levels. First, the complex effort to develop and implement shared data objectives in a system with multiple groups with vested interests and historical procedures for data collection, management, and analysis will require considerable time and effort at each observatory site. Indeed, assessment of the potential for collaboration will need to be incorporated in the site selection process. In addition, standards for human subject reviews, data collection, and data storage will need to be agreed upon and implemented to allow interoperability and convergence among diverse data systems used by states and local facilities. These standards need to be planned in a way that will balance research needs with the requirements of participating agencies. Finally, instruments will need to be developed to measure the human system, and the WATERS
Network will need to plan for the integration of these measurements into a consistent data structure. If WATERS could facilitate the development of a national data framework involving state and local governments as well as the federal government, it would be performing a major service to the nation.
Given the complexity and diversity of relationships at the state and local levels, these challenges require a well-conceived strategy and possibly more effort and resources than the effort to coordinate with national agencies. Preliminary investigation and negotiations involving candidate sites will be necessary to evaluate the opportunities and obstacles for co-operation at each site before specific sites are selected. The procedures and decision process for developing common data objectives, human subject approval standards, and instrumentation need to be developed in conjunction with the site selection process, because early participation of at least some critical local agencies is more likely to secure the broader participation of similar agencies. The theoretical and practical trade-offs between the required uniformity of core networkwide data and the potential richness of site-specific data beyond this core will require an ongoing assessment procedure, and the data storage and retrieval system must be planned with these trade-offs in mind.
There are many programs that involve water research in countries outside the United States. WATERS would need to keep abreast of international developments and organize collaborations as appropriate to achieving the network’s science goals. Listed below are some key international programs with the committee’s suggestions on themes of joint interest:
World Climate Research Programme’s Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX)7 is an integrated program of observations, modeling, field campaigns, and applied research in water cycle sciences with an aim to improve prediction capabilities. WATERS work on hydrologic modeling, closing water budgets, and placing regional water issues in a global context are complementary to this program.
Group on Earth Observations8 is coordinating international efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems. This emerging public infrastructure is bringing together observational systems for monitoring and forecasting changes in the global environment. The development of standards and protocols for measurement and prototype systems for data handling, analysis, and integration will be important for WATERS.
The Global Water System Project addresses research questions regarding impacts of integrated global environmental change on water, themes that are clearly consistent with those of WATERS.
There are a number of other international science and engineering programs that could also be useful points of contact for WATERS internationally. Programs administered through the United Nations, including the World Meteorological Organization and its Climate and Hydrology division, the United Nations Environmental Programme and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International Hydrology Programme are examples. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s Integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study, which deals with the role of water on the land surface and its interactions with the atmosphere, and the International Human Dimensions Programme, which has a number of projects looking at the effects of management policies and practices on water, are among other possible international efforts that are pertinent to WATERS.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Descriptions of federal and state agency water-related activities tend to provide a picture of programs that are compartmentalized and directed by agency mandates and authorities through appropriations by Congress. Given the breadth of the WATERS agenda, the program will gain from interactions with all of these diverse agency programs. Many of the benefits for WATERS of improved coordination and collaboration have been summarized in this chapter. Although integration across agencies and even within agencies (including within NSF) in the area of water is often recognized as a desirable goal, this is difficult to achieve within the existing institutional framework without a catalyst. WATERS could serve as a catalyst for bringing agencies together to support a com-
mon agenda that transcends normal agency activities and provides opportunities to contribute to a broader integrated agenda. To achieve this goal, the WATERS team should involve appropriate federal agencies, state and local governments, organizations, and international programs at an early stage. Interactions and relationships that are developed in a coordinated and planned way will have more impact than ad hoc opportunism by individual scientists. The degree of coordination that can reasonably be achieved, however, may depend upon the data-sharing and cyberinfrastructure challenges encountered, as discussed in Chapter 2.