Water Resources of the United States


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Water Resources History



  • 1888: U.S. Geological Survey initiates the National Streamgaging Program with training and gage installation on the Rio Grande River near Embudo, New Mexico, as part of the Irrigation Surveys under Director John Wesley Powell.
  • 1894: First Congressional appropriation specifically for streamgaging; Hydrographic Division recognized as a regular unit of the USGS.
  • 1896: Congress includes an annual appropriation for "the investigation of underground currents and artesian well(s)".
  • 1902: Passage of the Reclamation Act. Establishes the Hydrographic Branch of USGS, comprising the Division of Hydrography (for streamgaging), the Division of Hydrology (for ground water), the Division of Hydro-Economics (for water quality in relation to agriculture and industry), and the Reclamation Service (later to become the Bureau of Reclamation), under F.H. Newell, Chief Hydrographer. Initiation of significant cooperation between the USGS Hydrographic Branch and State agencies.
  • 1906: Name changed to Water Resources Branch in recognition that ".our work would be more fully appreciated if people could understand its character without resorting to a Latin dictionary or some similar aid of understanding." -Chief Hydrographer M.O. Leighton. Division of Hydro-Economics becomes the Division of Water Quality, and Division of Hydrology become the Division of Ground Water.
  • 1912: USGS begins installing reliable automatic water-stage recorders at streamgages.
  • 1924: Congress recognizes the Cooperative Hydrology Program as a jointly-funded collaboration between USGS and State and local agencies.
  • 1949: The Water Resources Branch becomes the Water Resources Division, with separate branches for surface water, ground water, and water quality.
  • 1964: Water Resources Division re-organized to combine the Surface Water, Ground Water and Quality of Water Branches at the District level under District Chiefs reporting to the Division. Chief Hydrologist Luna Leopold places increased emphasis on research and interpretation of data.
  • 1994: Robert Hirsch becomes Chief Hydrologist.
  • 2008: Matthew Larsen becomes Chief Hydrologist.

(For more historical information, please see the four published volumes of  A History of the Water Resources Division in the USGS Library.)

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