OPPORTUNITIES IN THE
Committee on Challenges and Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences
Water Science and Technology Board
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
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.
Support for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation Grant No. EAR-0938578. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-22283-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-22283-4
Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; Internet, http://www.nap.edu/.
Cover design: Anne Rogers, The National Academies Press.
Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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. Ralph J. Cicerone 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. Charles M. Vest 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. Harvey V. Fineberg 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. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
This page intentionally left blank.
COMMITTEE ON CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE HYDROLOGIC SCIENCES
George M. Hornberger, Chair, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
Emily Bernhardt, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
William E. Dietrich, University of California, Berkeley
Dara Entekhabi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Graham E. Fogg, University of California, Davis
Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
William J. Gutowski, Jr, Iowa State University, Ames
W. Berry Lyons, The Ohio State University, Columbus
Kenneth W. Potter, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Scott W. Tyler, University of Nevada, Reno
Henry J. Vaux, Jr., University of California, Berkeley
Charles J. Vorosmarty, ex officio, City University of New York, New York
Claire Welty, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore
Connie A. Woodhouse, University of Arizona, Tucson
Chunmiao Zheng, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Laura J. Helsabeck, Senior Staff Officer
Anita Hall, Senior Program Associate
Stephen T. Russell, Senior Program Assistant (through July 23, 2010)
WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD
Donald I. Siegel, Chair, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, University of California, Berkeley
Edward J. Bouwer, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
Yu-Ping Chin, The Ohio State University, Columbus
Otto C. Doering III, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
M. Siobhan Fennessy, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
Ben Grumbles, Clean Water America Alliance, Washington, DC
George R. Hallberg, The Cadmus Group, Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts
Kenneth R. Herd, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Brooksville
George M. Hornberger, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
Kimberly L. Jones, Howard University, Washington, DC
Larry Larson, Association of State Floodplain Managers, Madison, Wisconsin
David Moreau, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dennis D. Murphy, University of Nevada, Reno
Marylynn V. Yates, University of California, Riverside
Stephen D. Parker, Director, Scholar (through February 3, 2012)
Jeffrey Jacobs, Director, Scholar
Laura J. Ehlers, Senior Staff Officer
Laura J. Helsabeck, Senior Staff Officer
Stephanie Johnson, Senior Staff Officer
Jeanne Aquilino, Financial and Administrative Associate
Anita Hall, Senior Program Associate
Michael Stoever, Research Associate
Sarah Brennan, Senior Program Assistant
The publication of Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences in 1991 was a watershed event for the hydrologic sciences. This highly influential report of a National Research Council (NRC) committee, chaired by Peter S. Eagleson, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, envisioned hydrologic science as a distinct geoscience and set forth a corresponding research agenda for the field.
Today, anyone who reads the “Blue Book,” as the 1991 NRC report came to be affectionately known, must be struck by how the research agenda envisioned then still serves as a sturdy framework for the field and will undoubtedly do so for a long time in the future. Of course the hydrologic sciences have advanced and matured tremendously since 1991. Novel scientific studies now are possible because they can be built on successes of the past and can employ powerful new analytical, measurement, and computational technologies that have emerged over the past two decades and even over the past several years. There are completely new possibilities for learning how water shapes the surface of Earth (and other planets) and creates vegetation patterns, how the hydrology of the land surface both drives and is driven by atmospheric processes, how complex biogeochemical processes are intertwined with hydrological processes, and how a host of the research questions posed in the Blue Book now can be attacked advantageously. In addition to establishing the conceptual, empirical, and theoretical foundations of the science, refining and bolstering the fundamental base for hydrologic sciences is essential to support those who grapple with a multitude of water-related problems in a world that needs increasingly more energy, food, and water for humans while protecting
ecosystem integrity, biodiversity, and irreplaceable landscapes, all in the face of a changing climate. Talk about challenges!
Recognizing the need to strengthen and adjust its hydrologic science research efforts, in 2009 the National Science Foundation (NSF) Earth Sciences leaders requested that the NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) organize a study of current challenges and opportunities for the hydrologic sciences. The WSTB appointed a committee and charged it “to review the current status of hydrology and its subfields and the coupling with related geosciences and biosciences, and identify promising new opportunities to advance hydrologic sciences for better understanding of the water cycle that can be used to improve human welfare and the health of the environment.” The members of the WSTB-appointed committee came from the field of hydrologic science and related biosciences and geosciences disciplines. The committee met with program managers from NSF and other federal agencies, heard the perspectives of a number of highly respected scientists and engineers in the field, held a “town hall” gathering at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in 2009 to hear from the community, and solicited written input from members of the hydrologic and broader geosciences community. The committee read many previous reports and reviewed a great deal of literature and, in closed sessions, discussed and deliberated the future of the field and how to respond to the charge. This report is the result of that work. It is not, and was not meant to be, a comprehensive compendium of detailed research projects that might be undertaken in advancing hydrologic science, nor does it seek to define a field—a distinct geoscience—as did the Blue Book. Rather, it presents a high-level view of the field and gives broad examples of the “promising new opportunities to advance hydrologic sciences” as requested in the charge. It also outlines some of the challenges that face NSF, other agencies engaged in research in hydrologic sciences, and the hydrologic sciences community in fulfilling the vision for the field. The committee members are unanimous in the hope that the report will stimulate new research, some of which will undoubtedly extend beyond the specifics of what is written and into disciplines related to hydrologic sciences, but all of which will contribute to a shared vision of a vibrant and exciting hydrologic science of the future.
As the committee chair, I thank the members of the committee for their hard work in preparing this report, for their good-natured approach to reaching consensus on the many issues that we discussed, and for the wonderful camaraderie that they exhibited throughout our work together. This report, like all NRC reports, was made possible by excellent staff work. I thank Anita Hall for managing logistics for the committee. I especially want to thank Laura J. Helsabeck, the WSTB study director for the project, for her major contributions—both editorial and substantive—to the work, for
keeping me focused on the tasks that needed to be accomplished, and for shepherding the report through the NRC publication process.
This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their breadth of perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with the procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review was to provide candid and critical comments to assist the institution in ensuring that its published report is scientifically credible and that it meets NRC institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The reviewer comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the deliberative process. We thank the following reviewers for their helpful suggestions, all of which were considered and many of which were wholly or partly incorporated in the final report: Mary Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Susanne Anderson, University of Colorado, Boulder; Jean Bahr, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Victor Baker, University of Arizona; Susan Brantley, Pennsylvania State University; Stephen Burges, University of Washington; Yu-Ping Chin, The Ohio State University; Jeff Dozier, University of California, Santa Barbara; Howard Epstein, University of Virginia; Dennis Lettenmaier, University of Washington; Chris Paola, University of Minnesota; Donald Siegel, Syracuse University; Deborah Swackhamer, University of Minnesota, St. Paul; and Patricia Wiberg, University of Virginia.
Although these reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions and recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Edwin Przybylowicz, Retired, Senior Vice President, Eastman Kodak Company. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments received full consideration. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
George M. Hornberger, Chair
Committee on Challenges and Opportunities
in the Hydrologic Sciences
This page intentionally left blank.