U.S. water management entering challenging times
April 11, 2023
Extreme weather demands modernized models & infrastructure
Federal agency representatives shared the following highlights during an annual Washington, D.C. round table hosted by Interstate Council on Water Policy (ICWP) and National Water Supply Alliance (NWSA).
Despite Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding passed by Congress, Don Cline, USGS Associate Director for Water Resources, highlighted that water management is entering “challenging times” as the new norm of extreme weather events make traditional infrastructure insufficient.
Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program
Due to only a slight increase in funding during Fiscal Year FY2023, USGS will lose 17 gages. The FY2024 request in the President’s budget plans to add back 30 gages and keep the others operational.
USGS Hydrography Management and Planning
The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) continues to progress toward the alignment of hydrography data and elevation data. FY2023 data acquisition activities will include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in addition to state project contributions.
USGS is looking modernizing its models to ensure the capability of representing extreme events and the prioritized availability of data to fuel those models. The agency is also prioritizing the integration of water quality and human behavior into its models and assessments.
National Weather Service (NWS), Office of Water Prediction
NWS recently issued a 10-year strategic plan that emphasizes “impact-based decision support services.” NOAA intends to invest its IIJA allocation to “leverage updates for data frequency and probable maximum precipitation” on a national scale. The Realtime Forecast Flood Inundation Maps will be completed by 2026 and Atlas 15 will be completed in 2027.
National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)
NOAA will look to modernize NIDIS as “climate events like drought are accelerating” and to roll out a nationwide Drought Early Warning System (DEWS). Up to this time, the system has been rolled out on a regional scale.
Civil Works, Project Planning and Review
The frequency of severe weather events means the Army Corps of Engineers “must now pre-position, anticipate events and expand efforts to communicate risk and innovate with broader communities in mind.”
“To meet demands in a prioritized way and use funding to the best of the agency’s ability” will require the agency to think differently about its authorities – in other words, to increase resilience through informed action.
Priorities include upgrades to the nation’s waterways and ports; construction of climate-resilient infrastructure that protects communities and ecosystems; investments in science, research and development to deliver enduring water resource solutions; and strengthened relationships to solve water resource challenges.