Proceedings of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Sediment Workshop, February 4-7, 1997


Bernard, Jerry M., USDA--Natural Resources Conservation Service, P.O. Box 2890,
12th and Independence Ave., Rm 6132, Washington, DC 20013-2890.
Tel. (202) 720-5356, fax (202) 720-0428,


The NRCS was formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service until November, 1995.

The agency's concern with sediment began with soil erosion reduction as a primary focus in the 1930's. Over the years, the agency has collaborated with the USDA--Agricultural Research Service to develop reliable predictive equations for field use to determine the effectiveness of soil erosion control practices and programs (tons of soil saved). Examples range from the lumped parameter Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), Wind Erosion Equation (WEQ), the Revised USLE (RUSLE), and the Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) to the process simulation model, the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP), and the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS). WEPP simulates sheet and rill erosion, concentrated flow erosion, and sediment transport and deposition along a measured field slope, including the sediment size distribution, which is important to water quality impacts. Depending on the land use, WEPP can also make these estimates for watersheds less than 2,000 acres in drainage area. Dave Schertz, National Agronomist, is the NRCS leader for these models. WEPP and WEPS should be fully operational around 2000.

NRCS currently works with private landowners to protect natural resources. This mission gives equal weight to the reduction of soil erosion rates, as well as reducing the amount and impact of sediment on natural resources.

The NRCS relies heavily on USGS for the water and sediment data that they collect at stream gages.

NRCS is partnering with the ARS in identifying and prioritizing research in many subject matter areas related to the protection of natural resources, including the prediction and control of erosion, stream restoration, and the modeling of the effects of watershed protection actions on water quality and other natural resources. Examples are a variety of field and watershed scale models, including EPIC, SWRRBWQ, ANNAGNPS, MUSLE, HUSLE, HUMUS. Key contacts in this partnering are Lee Herndon, NRCS, Dick Amerman, ARS, and Wil Fontenot, NRCS.

The modeling of water quality effects of resource protection programs, including sediment yield rates, remains high on the list of needs in the agency. Models that are simple, reliable, and do not require users to key-in lavish amounts of data are especially needed. The fact is that models are the only means to route water and sediment and other pollutants on a watershed basis and in a manner which allows planners to determine not only the effects of treatments on dispersed areas over long time periods, but also the treatments needed based on landscape and watershed location and in identifying high priority treatment areas.


(in priority order)

Item #1) Sediment transport component of the Hydrologic Unit Model for the United States (HUMUS) needs to be validated.

Item #2) NRCS and other state and federal agencies involved with watershed resource protection need more reservoir sedimentation surveys.

Item #3) NRCS needs to transfer the operation and maintenance of the Reservoir Sedimentation Information System (RESIS) and make it nationally accessible.

Item #4) Information about sediment toxicity and sediment quality are needed.

Item #5) More suspended sediment and bedload sediment data are needed on streams draining small watersheds (< 100 mi2).

Item #6) Ephemeral gully erosion predictive techniques need to be refined.


Jerry M. Bernard, USDA--Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC: Currently serves as National Geologist on the Conservation Engineering Division Staff for the National Headquarters. Experience includes emphasis on erosion and sedimentation processes, predictions and estimates for project areas, water quality impacts due to sediment, and the erosion and sediment transport components of field and watershed scale water quality models. Is the national discipline expert for geology matters in the agency.

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