National Research Program (NRP)

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About the National Research Program


  • USGS John Wesley Powell Federal Building in Reston VA.

    USGS, Reston VA

  • USGS in Denver CO.

    USGS, Denver CO

  • USGS in Menlo Park CA.

    USGS, Menlo Park CA

The National Research Program (NRP) conducts basic and long-term research that integrates hydrological, geological, chemical, climatological, and biological information related to water resources and environmental problems. Relevant hydrologic information provided by the USGS is available today to assist the Nation in solving its water problems because of a conscious decision made in years past to invest in research. Researchers in the National Research Program focus both on (1) the study and application of hydrologic principles to particular geographic settings or water-resources problems, and (2) on fundamental research addressing hydrologic processes and principles that are related to broad geographic areas or problems. The combination of approaches is essential to the development of scientific understanding and the application of results to problems related to the use and preservation of the Nation's water resources, both of which help the USGS and the U.S. Department of the Interior perform their public missions.

Results of hydrologic research by scientists in this program have provided much of the scientific basis that has enabled the USGS to tackle and resolve complex hydrologic problems. The new information, theories, techniques, and tools developed within the program are used not only by USGS scientists and managers, but also by the members of the hydrologic community outside the USGS, both nationally and internationally, and by the public. The NRP makes a deliberate effort to anticipate research needs that will be pertinent to hydrologic science issues of the future. Thus, the emphasis of NRP research activities changes through time, reflecting the emergence of needed new areas of inquiry and the demand for new tools and techniques with which to address water-resources issues and problems. Through the years, many of the Geological Survey's major research and resource assessment initiatives related to existing and emerging national water-resources problems had their origins in the NRP.

In addition to the generally long-term research studies conducted as part of the centrally-coordinated NRP, the USGS conducts other hydrologic research studies throughout the United States. Information related to these research studies and other water resources activities of the USGS is arranged by state. USGS also provides partial support for the State Water Resources Research Institutes, including management of a competitive grants program as authorized under the Water Resources Research Act.

A Brief History

The National Research Program had its beginnings in the late 1950s. Since that time the program has grown to encompass a broad spectrum of scientific research. The sciences of hydrology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, ecology, biology and engineering are used to gain a fundamental understanding of the processes that affect the availability, movement, and quality of the Nation's water resources. Results of the NRP's long-term research investigations often lead to the development of new concepts, techniques, and approaches that are applicable not only to the solution of current water problems, but also future issues that may affect the Nations's water resources. Basic tools that have been developed by the NRP include groundwater modeling, geochemical modeling, watershed modeling, and regional flood frequency analysis. Additional information about the NRP is provided by a fact sheet published in 2005: The National Research Program in the Hydrological Sciences