Organization: Department of Interior (DOI)

Research Title: Sensitivity of Water Resources

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 1.0
FY95 0.5
FY96 0.0

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Subcommittee (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Natural Variability (100%)
(c) Research Activity: System structure and function: Understanding (50%), Observation (8%); Assessment (20%); Data Management (22%)

Organizational Component:
U.S. Geological Survey
104 National Center
Reston, VA 22092

Point of Contact:
Michael Carr
Phone: 703-648-4408

Research Goals:
The objective of this program is to develop a capability to predict the hydrometeorological and water resources response to climate variability and change across the range of environmental conditions existing in the United States. This involves the development and testing of approaches to: the generation of meteorological and climatic inputs, the translation of these inputs to streamflow and ground-water recharge, and the integration of these effects with ground-water responses to streamflow, recharge, and sea-level changes. It involves the nesting of climate models, and the linking of watershed models with water management models so that the improvements in predicting hydrometeorological conditions are directly translated into improvements in the management of water resources and water system operations, and aquatic/ecosystem management

Research Description:
Water resources managers require improved methods for assessing the sensitivity of the systems they manage to seasonal and longer-term variations in weather and climate. Equally important is the need for methods of evaluating the risk or uncertainty associated with such assessments. Many of the existing predictive tools (climate, watershed, and aquatic/ecosystem models) are not sufficiently focused on water and energy budgets to provide the necessary answers. Virtually all techniques of hydrologic analysis are based on the assumption of a stationary, or unchanging climate. Climate modeling is limited by physical understanding and the speed of existing computers. Hydrologic models have traditionally been more focused on the problem of flood responses and not the overall water budget. The need exists for improved procedures for generating the meteorological forcing functions within integrated climate/hydrologic models under assumptions of a non-stationary climate. Comprehensive aquatic/ecosystem models are just being developed.

Program Interfaces:
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) are working together to link watershed models with water management models. This is providing Federal, State, and local water resource managers with the tools and techniques to improve management of existing water supplies. The BOR is working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research on the nesting of atmospheric models to improve prediction of hydrometeorological variables. The USGS is working under cooperative agreements with the governments of Japan and Russia on the development of improved watershed models.

Program Milestones:

Policy Payoffs:
This program benefits policy makers and water resource users in the short term by developing a water resource prediction and user management system consisting of coupled atmospheric, watershed, water routing and reservoir management models. The joint USGS/BOR modeling activities have already resulted in one example of improved seasonal water management decisions in a small watershed in the mountainous western U.S. It is reasonable to expect that continued development of coupled models will improve water and aquatic/ecosystem management decisions in western watersheds where the BOR conducts operations.