Priority Issues for the Federal-State Cooperative Program, Fiscal Year 2000

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 11:11:43 -0400
To: "A  - Division Chief and Staff",
        "B  - Branch Chiefs and Offices",
        "S  - Special Distribution for Research",
        "FO - State, District, Subdistrict and other Field Offices",
        "PO - Project Offices"
From: "Robert M. Hirsch"  (by way of Jan Arneson )
Subject: WRD Memorandum No. 99.30--Priority Issues for the
  Federal-State Cooperative Program, FY 2000
Cc: "  WRD Archive File,  "

In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 441

                                                                        July 14, 1999


Subject:        Priority Issues for the Federal-State Cooperative Program, 
                Fiscal Year 2000

This memorandum describes priority water issues to be considered in
planning the Water Resources Division's (WRD) fiscal year (FY) 2000 
Federal-State Cooperative (Coop) Program. The Coop Program, as in recent years, 
should be directed to one or more of four major categories of work which 
encompass the priorities of the entire U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):  
(1) Hazards, (2) Resources, (3) Environment, and (4) Information.  Accordingly, 
the WRD Senior Staff, in careful consultation with district and regional managers, 
WRD cooperators, and numerous external organizations, has identified the following 
water-related issues that most require USGS involvement at State and local levels:

HYDROLOGIC HAZARDS--Economic losses from hydrologic hazards amount to several
billions of dollars annually.  Monitoring the occurrence and magnitude of these
extreme events and studying the basic processes underlying these hazards
will lead to improving the ability to forecast probability of occurrence and likely
magnitudes, and help prepare for and prevent disasters.  Increasing real-time access
to streamflow data through telemetry at gaging stations and through improved
presentation on the Internet remains particularly important for disaster

WATER QUALITY--The need to provide information to better define and manage the
quality of the Nation's water resources remains among the highest Coop Program
priorities.  Water-quality activities that support Federal, State, or local
efforts to improve water quality and stream ecosystems in degraded watersheds
across the country and to improve the availability and dissemination of water-quality
information to all potential users are of vital interest. Through partnerships with
State and local agencies the Coop Program can assist efforts by addressing issues
that include:  (1) determining the linkage between agricultural practices and
pesticides in ground water and surface water; (2) providing more quantitative
understanding of the sources of nutrients entering streams; (3) determining the
effects of land use practices on surface and ground water; (4) understanding the
relations between water quality and the health of stream ecosystems; (5) assisting
States in setting Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements of the Clean Water
Act; (6) assessing the best approach to monitor water-supply wells; (7) better
quantifying the effects of active and abandoned mines on streams and aquifers; 
(8) evaluating effectiveness of nonpoint source pollution management practices;
(9) improving strategies to identify and protect drinking water sources; and 
(10) increasing the availability of water-quality information, including 
real-time data, for rivers and coastal waters near the Nation's largest cities.

HYDROLOGIC DATA NETWORKS--The hydrologic-data networks constitute the foundation 
for watershed and aquifer management and for many other WRD programs.  It continues 
to be a high priority item.  Present and possible future WRD initiatives are
expected to require access to a comprehensive, uniform, and accurate foundation of
surface-water, ground-water, water-quality, and water-use data of national scope. 
The Coop Program can be used to support additional water-quality monitoring
stations, including the collection of streamflow data, to determine pollutant
loads.  Emphasis will be placed on biological monitoring to assess conditions that
affect human health and aquatic health.  Large amounts of data and specialized
interpretation often are required for management of the resource base and for
water-rights determination by State and Federal agencies.  Enhancement of the
hydrologic-data networks, improved accessibility to available information
(such as an increase in the availability of real-time data), and coordination of
program activities with those of other agencies continue to be high-priority

WATER SUPPLY AND DEMAND--The future health and economic welfare of the Nation's
population is dependent upon a continuing supply of uncontaminated freshwater.  
Many existing sources of water are being stressed by increasing withdrawals, use,
diversion, and increasing demands for instream flow.  More comprehensive water-use
data and analysis of water-use information are needed to quantify the stress on
existing supplies and to better model and evaluate possible demand management
options to supplement the traditional supply approaches.

Improved watershed characterization and flow-system definition and simulation also
are needed for the management of aquifers and streams that serve as important local
or regional sources of water supply and for the management and support of watershed
ecosystems.  Because aquifers and streams often are highly interdependent, improved
tools for simulating interactions between ground and surface water that account
quantitatively for effects of withdrawals and climate variations also are needed so
that watersheds can be managed more readily as systems.  Hydrologic systems models
that are capable of showing the consequences of various decisions over a wide range
of hydrologic and climatic conditions will be very helpful to local water managers.

WETLANDS, LAKES, RESERVOIRS, AND ESTUARIES--These valuable ecosystems merit special
attention from the USGS because of their importance as fish and wildlife habitats,
recreational areas, and sources of water supply for which the Department of the
Interior (DOI) has substantial mission responsibility.  Wetlands, in particular, are
areas where important water treatment and purification processes can occur naturally.  
In many areas wetlands are being restored or constructed without pre- or post-scientific 
evaluations.  Studies that integrate and contribute to a better understanding of the 
physical, chemical, and biological processes of these ecosystems and their watersheds 
are needed to evaluate development and management alternatives.

WATER RESOURCES ISSUES IN COASTAL ZONE--Effects of land use and population increases
on the water resources in the coastal zone are major national concerns. Hydrologic
monitoring and studies are needed to address issues of erosion, loss of wetlands,
subsidence, saltwater intrusion, and problems associated with excessive nutrients,
disease-causing micro-organisms, and toxic chemicals, originating upstream from
industrial activities and agricultural practices.  These pollutants can degrade
habitat and health of fish and other wildlife and make beaches and other areas
unsuitable for recreational use.

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON HUMAN HEALTH--This priority focuses on understanding the
processes and activities leading to the exposure of human disease-causing contaminants.  
Issues include: (1) waterborne microbiological threats to human health, including 
bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and potentially toxic algae; (2) bioaccumulation of trace 
elements in plants and fish that humans eat; (3) naturally-occurring contaminants, 
such as arsenic, radium, and trace elements; and (4) occurrence and persistence of 
harmful organic compounds in ground waters, rivers, and reservoirs.  Development of 
public information products jointly with State and local health or water supply 
agencies is strongly encouraged.  These products should stress source-water conditions 
and health advice coupled with explanation of sources and concentrations of key 

In addition to the high-priority technical issues outlined above, special
consideration should be given within the Coop Program to conducting hydrologic
analyses and data collection that:

        (1)  support WRD thrust programs,
        (2)  are beneficial to the WRD commitment to other Federal agencies,
             especially DOI agencies,
        (3)  result in interdivision collaboration, or
        (4)  show promise in facilitating the development of products that will
             provide consistent national and regional insight into water-resource

Finally, we must always keep in mind that projects undertaken with cooperators must
provide an enhancement of knowledge, methodology, or data that is likely to be
useful beyond the immediate needs of the cooperator.  In general, if the project is
driven solely by an operational need of the cooperator to meet some information
requirement for a permit or regulation, we should not undertake it.  However, if
this operational need can be satisfied along with one or more of the following
broader USGS goals, then the work may be considered appropriate.  These broader
goals, as enumerated in WRD Memorandum No. 95.44 and reinforced in the draft WRD
Strategic Directions document are:

        (1)  advancing knowledge of regional hydrologic systems,
        (2)  advancing field or analytical methodology,
        (3)  advancing understanding of hydrologic processes,
        (4)  providing data or results useful to multiple parties in
             potentially contentious inter-jurisdictional conflicts
             over water resources,
        (5)  furnishing hydrologic data required for interstate and
             international compacts, Federal law, court decrees, and
             congressionally mandated studies,
        (6)  providing water-resources information that will be used by
             multiple parties for planning and operational purposes,
        (7)  furnishing hydrologic data or information that contribute
             to protection of life and property,
        (8)  contributing data to national data bases that will be used
             to advance the understanding of regional and temporal
             variations in hydrologic conditions.


                                      Robert M. Hirsch
                                      Chief Hydrologist

Distribution: A, B, S, FO, PO

This WRD memorandum supersedes WRD Memorandum No. 98.21.

 Cc:    CH file, MS 409
        WRD General, MS 403
        WRD Chron, MS 441

/home/acho/dilandro/COOP.PROGRAM/Priority Issues FY 2000.doc