National Report: Responding to National Water Resources Challenges

Produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), this report presents the results of the two-year "Building Strong Collaborative Relationships for a Sustainable Water Resources Future" project, which was designed to improve water management through more effective collaboration between state, interstate and Federal water resources agencies. The report aims to support the engagement of senior government leaders and develop a way for the federal government and its agencies to respond to the identified water resources needs. Input from Federal, state, interstate, tribal, and nongovernment representatives is summarized.

The report provides a synthesis of water resource issues, along with some general recommendations and suggested actions (next steps) for advancing integrated water resources management (IWRM). IWRM highlights the interconnectedness of resources, resource managers, stakeholders and resource decisions in order to allow comprehensive planning. Key IWRM concepts include holism, systems, watersheds, participation, balance and sustainability.

The assessment of water resources needs and priorities indicated that there are common drivers for water resources planning throughout the U.S. These drivers include aging infrastructure, population growth causing rising water demand; and environmental pollution from nutrients and chemical runoff. Climate change is recognized as a major stressor of both water resources and water infrastructure.

Recommendations and suggested actions are based on the review of states’ and federal agencies’ water planning and management documents, interviews with selected state and federal water officials, and discussions at three regional conferences. The results of the assessment highlighted states’ needs for: more funding, better access to current and comprehensive data about water resources, and more IWRM to balance water and related land resources and their uses. The report argues that the federal government can take the lead in helping the states meet these needs through collaboration and a refocusing of some federal programs, respecting the states’ primacy to lead their own water resources planning and management.

States also expressed the need for support to maintain and repair of aging infrastructure and for new stormwater, wastewater, and water supply facilities. Resource constraints, a common critical need expressed by states and water resources agencies, may be the greatest impediment to a sustainable water resources future. 

Publication Date: August 2010

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