American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

NRC Report on Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey (8-28-97)

Traditionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has conducted watershed research on small, pristine areas to better understand the interplay of geological, biological and chemical forces of the area. The National Research Council prepared a report, Watershed Research in the U.S. Geological Survey, to "provide strategic advice" to address the changes necessary for the USGS to maintain its national significance as a key provider of information for policymaking in an era of shrinking budgets.

The report recommends shifting emphasis away from small-scale research to research that addresses pressing problems such as water quality, water availability, natural hazards, climate change, aquatic habitat, and land use. The USGS could provide valuable information on these issues by focusing their research on four main areas: larger watersheds, urban watersheds, restoration of damaged watersheds, and erosion and sedimentation processes. An effective program would include collaboration with other agencies and universities, as well as a three-pronged approach to research. First, measure and monitor watersheds of various sizes, intensely study several smaller watersheds, and create a modeling program to interpret the interplay of small and large watershed research.

The study was conducted by the Committee on U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research, which is under the direction of the Water Science and Technology Board. The study was chaired by George Hornberger, a professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia. Other committee members had expertise in areas such as hydrogeology, environmental engineering, and hydrology. For more information on the these board and its publications, visits the NRC Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources web site. Additional information and order forms are available from the National Academy Press at 800-624-6242 and on the NAP web site.

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Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs.
Last updated August 28, 1997

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