Letter Report Assessing the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program's Science Framework

The U.S. Geological Survey requested that the National Research Council review and provide guidance on the direction and priorities of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The Council put together a committee to provide an assessment of the NAWQA Program's Science Framework in terms of whether it sets forth adequately the priorities for the future which will be addressed in the third cycle of the program. The report recommends that activities in this cycle be organized around two drivers of stressed water supplies and related ecosystems: change in land use, and climate variability and change. Under these two broad drivers, the report directs the program to formulate specific, policy-relevant research questions it will address and use to guide scientific priorities.

The report assesses the adequacy of the priorities for the program’s scientific framework. The resource describes how to mold the framework to allow it to guide water policy and decision makers in their evaluations of the nation’s water resources and their establishment of policies in areas that consider water quality. It also includes guidance on the nature and priorities of current and future water quality issues that will confront the United States over the next 10-15 years.

The committee recommends NAWQA explicitly lay out policy relevant research questions under the auspices of the two focal drivers of land use change and climate change. The report explains that "these research questions will convey to decision makers and water managers the important topics that the NAWQA program will address as well as the critical value of the NAWQA program itself." The committee gives examples of these policy relevant questions: How would changing land use and a changing climate affect water quality, quantity, and allocation in the American west? Or, how will changing climate and land use affect the balance of human water needs and valued ecosystem needs in different regions of the United States?

The assessment offers not only how to refocus the framework, but also how to organize and communicate the message of the program effectively. For example, the Council suggests that the Science Framework needs to be far more explicit than implicit in its exposition. The committee recommends that NAWQA better articulate its vision first and foremost in the document and then explicitly describe the value of the program to the nation’s water policy and decision makers.








Publication Date: 2010

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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