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National Water Census

Dept. of Interior WaterSMART activities

Dept. of Interior WaterSMART activities


WaterSMART, which stands for Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow, is an initiative launched by the U.S. Department of the Interior in February 2010 to implement the SECURE Water Act. WaterSMART has enabled both USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to invest in new efforts to address the water resource challenges facing the Nation. In October 2012, the Department of the Interior released a three-year progress report on WaterSMART, and USGS Water Census activities are summarized under the heading "Water Use and Availability Assessments." Read the DOI Report>>>

Under WaterSMART, USGS was able to realize the vision of a National Water Census that had been building for decades. In 2007, this was proposed as one of the agency's key research directions in a 2007 USGS Science Strategy. The initiative allowed USGS to integrate its existing research on various aspects of water availability and use, identify key gaps in scientific capacity, and invest in the development of new, cutting edge hydrologic tools and assessments to fill the most critical information gaps. Importantly, WaterSMART allowed USGS to begin working more directly with stakeholders to identify which information gaps were most critical for the types of management decisions and uncertainties that they were facing.

The main WaterSMART activity in the USGS is the Water Census. USGS goals under WaterSMART include:

  • Bring existing plans and legislative mandates together in one strategy.
  • Integrate existing science efforts across Interior to focus resources on water availability questions.
  • Set forth a strategy to answer the questions:
    • Does the Nation have an adequate quantity of water, with sufficient quality and timing-characteristics, to meet both human and ecological needs?
    • Will this water be present to meet both existing and future needs?

Most research being conducted at USGS under WaterSMART fits into one of five overarching topic areas:

Geographic Focus Area Studies have been an important part of USGS implementation of WaterSMART, serving several purposes. They contribute toward ongoing assessments of water availability in large watersheds with potential water-use conflicts, provide opportunities to test and improve approaches to water availability assessment, and inform and ground truth the Water Census with local information. In each Geographic Focus Area, there is a desire on the part of watershed stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive technical assessment of water availability with the best available tools. They have enabled researchers to adopt a place-based approach to integrating diverse lines of scientific investigation while fielding feedback from stakeholders on their science needs and most critical uncertainties. The initial three focus areas selected were:

Additional Geographic Focus Area Studies began in 2015:

For more information about the USGS data and products under WaterSMART, visit the Data and Products page.

Working with Bureau of Reclamation on the Science of Water Supply

Within the USBR, the WaterSMART activities include West Wide Climate Risk Assessment, the River Basin Supply and Demand Studies, the WaterSMART Grants Program, which concentrates on water conservation and sustainability grants, and the Title XVI Program, which concentrates on water recycling and reuse projects. WaterSMART activities between the two agencies require close coordination. USGS and the USBR have been active participants in the planning and execution of the studies that have joint interest. This is directly apparent on the Colorado River Basin studies by both agencies, where the USGS Geographic Focus Area Study on the Colorado was designed in consultation with Reclamation Staff to address information needs related to the USBR River Basin Supply and Demand Study on the Colorado. For more information about the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation activities under WaterSMART, visit the USBR WaterSMART page or the WaterSMART Clearinghouse website.

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