3
Overview of Federal, State, Nongovernmental, and USGS Activities in River Science

As discussed in earlier chapters, there is a national need for information on the functions and responses of our nation’s rivers. There are also compelling arguments for meeting this need by developing a new integrative multidisciplinary perspective on rivers. As outlined in The USGS and River Science section of Chapter 1 and demonstrated in detail throughout this chapter, the USGS, given its history, strengths, and mission, is positioned to make unique contributions to the nation regarding river science. Still, the demands for river science information cannot be met by any one organization. Furthermore, the national interest in river systems involves many federal organizations that have a stake in the science. Their regulatory and management missions drive many of the needs for river science information, and their research activities related to these missions also contribute to the field. Given that the science of rivers involves so many entities—federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, public and private institutions, university research programs, and the public—and that river science itself encompasses so many disciplines, what specific role should the USGS play in river science?

To answer this question, we first review the ongoing activities at federal and state agencies and nongovernmental entities throughout the United States that already participate in the science and management of rivers. Then we outline the past and present work within the multiple disciplines at the USGS that relate to river science. This overview provides a comprehensive picture of the current state of river science research, and therefore suggests, from a realistic perspective, what needs to be done in the future. We conclude this chapter with a discussion of the role of the USGS in river science, specifically addressing the principles that should guide the priorities of a USGS river science initiative.



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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey 3 Overview of Federal, State, Nongovernmental, and USGS Activities in River Science As discussed in earlier chapters, there is a national need for information on the functions and responses of our nation’s rivers. There are also compelling arguments for meeting this need by developing a new integrative multidisciplinary perspective on rivers. As outlined in The USGS and River Science section of Chapter 1 and demonstrated in detail throughout this chapter, the USGS, given its history, strengths, and mission, is positioned to make unique contributions to the nation regarding river science. Still, the demands for river science information cannot be met by any one organization. Furthermore, the national interest in river systems involves many federal organizations that have a stake in the science. Their regulatory and management missions drive many of the needs for river science information, and their research activities related to these missions also contribute to the field. Given that the science of rivers involves so many entities—federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, public and private institutions, university research programs, and the public—and that river science itself encompasses so many disciplines, what specific role should the USGS play in river science? To answer this question, we first review the ongoing activities at federal and state agencies and nongovernmental entities throughout the United States that already participate in the science and management of rivers. Then we outline the past and present work within the multiple disciplines at the USGS that relate to river science. This overview provides a comprehensive picture of the current state of river science research, and therefore suggests, from a realistic perspective, what needs to be done in the future. We conclude this chapter with a discussion of the role of the USGS in river science, specifically addressing the principles that should guide the priorities of a USGS river science initiative.

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey This provides an important context for Chapter 4, where we outline specific recommendations that will allow the USGS to best address the major river science challenges outlined in Chapter 2. FEDERAL AGENCY ACTIVITIES IN RIVER SCIENCE For each federal agency the scope and nature of its river research activities are tied to its unique mission and management roles. In a report on New Strategies for America’s Watersheds (NRC, 1999b), the NRC reviewed in detail the involvement of federal agencies in water resources and river management. Table 3-1 summarizes the water-related responsibilities of federal agencies in 15 areas. Of these, research responsibilities were identified for eight federal agencies, with the USGS and the Environmental Protection Agency identified as having “significant responsibilities.” Table 3-2 summarizes water and water-related natural resources research and development (R&D) funding for several agencies. Figure 3-1 gives a spatial representation of some of these responsibilities for a “typical” medium-to-large river basin. In this section we briefly describe some of the research activities of these federal agencies in river science topics. We also describe some activities for several agencies that were not identified as having a major research role but whose research on related topics, or management roles, would have a significant influence on the needs and directions for river science research. Our summary is not intended to be comprehensive; instead, it is meant to provide context for the unique role of a USGS river science initiative within the larger multiagency enterprise that deals with river science and management issues. Federal Agencies with River Science Research Responsibilities Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)—Manages federal “wild and scenic rivers” and national forest lands to promote watershed protection. Its R&D scientists carry out basic and applied research to study biological, physical, and social sciences related to diverse forests and rangelands. According to the Forest Service, its research plays “a key role in sustaining our nation’s fisheries. For some native fishes, this is the only research program in the country with a primary focus on protecting, managing, and restoring their habitat. Research program objectives include: (1) defining habitat and ecosystem requirements; (2) identifying factors limiting populations; (3) developing methods to protect, improve, and restore habitats; and (4) developing cost-effective methods to monitor and evaluate habitats and populations.” The Forest Service also conducts watershed studies to understand better how watersheds function and what processes enhance or impair the quantity and quality of water that comes from forests (http://www.fs.fed.us/research/).

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey TABLE 3-1 Major Water-Related Responsibilities of Federal Agencies NOTE: Circle indicates some related responsibilities; filled circle indicates significant responsibilities. SOURCE: Slightly modified, with permission from O’Connor (1995) and NRC (1999b).

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey TABLE 3-2 Research and Development Funding in Water and Water Related Areas, FY2004 Funding Category and Agency 2004 (millions of dollars) Conservation and Land Management   Forest Service (USDA) 253 Department of the Interior 79 Recreational resources   U.S. Geological Survey (Interior) 169 Water Resources   Department of Defense, Army of Engineers 27 Bureau of Reclamation (Interior) 9 Other Natural Resources   U.S. Geological Survey   Geological and Mineral Resource Surveys and Mapping 198 Water Resources Investigations 132 National Mapping, Geography, and Survey 46 Department of Commerce, NOAA   Oceanic and Atmospheric Research 332 National Marine Fisheries Service 161 National Ocean Service 55 National Weather Service 20 National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service 24 All other NOAA 82 SOURCE: National Science Foundation (2004). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Department of Defense)—Responsible for national flood-damage reduction activities; development, operation and maintenance of ports, harbors, and inland navigation; and as authorized, development, operation, and maintenance of water supply, ecosystem restoration, recreation activities, and regulation (e.g., permitting activity in wetlands under the Clean Water Act). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) monitors river conditions and conducts water resources research and development activities. To carry out its responsibilities, USACE conducts research and development activities in a number of fields related to river science. Its Engineer Research and Development Center conducts research on water-resources-related environmental issues, dredged material utilization, erosion control, sediment management, river mechanics, navigation, flood control and flood damage reduction, coastal protection, and environmental sustainability. The Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) conducts research, analysis and consultation for USACE in surface and groundwater hydrology, river hydraulics and sediment transport, hydrologic statistics and risk analysis, reservoir system analysis, planning analysis, real-time water control management, and a number of other closely associated technical subjects. Its HEC family of models are in wide use within the United States

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey FIGURE 3-1 Federal agencies involved in river science. and overseas (http://www.hec.usace.army.mil/). USACE field activities (divisions and districts) are responsible for the operations of dams, levees, and other water resource systems and structures throughout the nation. As part of this mission, USACE conducts, often in coordination with the USGS, monitoring of rivers that affect or are affected by these works. The USACE can then use this information to better understand and thus prevent the avulsion of river structure. In addition, USACE conducts project-specific adaptive management, mitigation, and restoration programs designed to improve the environmental sustainability of their projects. These efforts frequently parallel the scientific activities of the Biological Resources Discipline of USGS. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior)—Responsible for development, operation, and management of water supply and related ecosystem management activities in the 17 western contiguous states. The bureau administers a science and technology program that researches, develops, demonstrates, and deploys “state-of-the-art technology to find new tools, better understand water systems, and develop flexibility in Bureau operations.” Research and

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey development projects include ones focused on both biology and water resources and include efforts such as investigating ecological interactions in small complex habitats for use in refugia design in regulated rivers, insuring fisheries have adequate amounts of water delivery through effective monitoring of fish movement, integrating state-of-the-art geophysical and groundwater-quality logging technologies for characterization of groundwater resources, and using remote sensing technology to facilitate detection of river system changes. The bureau also studies sediment transport associated with dam removal (http://www.usbr.gov/research/propc05/reviewer/public_main.cfm). Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior)—Responsible for protection of migratory birds, endangered species, certain marine mammals, and freshwater and anadromous fish. A major function of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the identification and recovery of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS consults with other federal agencies and renders “biological opinions” on the effects of proposed federal projects on endangered species. The FWS lost most of its research capacity when most of its research scientists became part of the National Biological Survey, which was eventually transformed into the Biological Resources Discipline of the USGS. Their decentralized workforce concentrates mostly on resource management and regulation, but some focused research relating to management activities is still done. An example is in New Mexico, where refuge and ecological services programs support river (endangered species) research and riparian (endangered species as well as ecosystem-level) research and monitoring along the Rio Grande River. Environmental Protection Agency—Establishes drinking-water-quality standards, regulates and funds wastewater management, and monitors wetlands, oceans, and watersheds. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly administers (with USACE) the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 Program. The EPA also monitors progress of national programs for total maximum daily load (TMDL) pollutants and for reducing nonpoint-source pollution. The EPA efforts in river science are led by its Office of Research and Development. The majority of this research is “in the life sciences (primarily biology and environmental biology).” Approximately 45 percent of its research and development is performed in EPA laboratories, nearly 33 percent in colleges and universities, and 16 percent by industrial firms (http://www.engineeringpolicy.org/EPA.html). The EPA’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) is a long-term research effort to enable status and trend assessments of aquatic ecosystems across the United States with a known statistical confidence (USEPA, 2002b). EMAP’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding for translating environmental monitoring data from multiple spatial and temporal scales into assessments of current ecological conditions and forecasts of future risks to our natural resources. EMAP has addressed the condition of estuaries, streams, and lakes in selected geographic regions. Data collected includes physical habitat, nutrients, and other commonly measured field parameters, and biological com-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey munities (algae, benthic invertebrates, and fish). The program interacts with many USGS offices, such as the Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment (MAIA) (www.epa.gov/maia/). EMAP uses a probabilistic sampling design to select sites with specific characteristics. This statistical approach is very different from that of the USGS’s National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA), discussed later in this chapter. NAWQA deterministically selects both its study units to represent different hydrologic environments with different contaminant sources and its individual monitoring sites to determine representative water-quality conditions relative to important environmental settings in the study unit. Many individual EPA research studies also monitor conditions in major rivers and collect samples of water, sediments, plants, insects, and fish for analysis (http://www.epa.gov/ord/). Federal Agencies with Research Indirectly Supporting River Science Agricultural Research Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)—The USDA’s primary in-house scientific research agency. The agency employs about 7000 people, including 2000 scientists who work at about 100 locations nationwide. Within its Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems focus area much of the research applies to river science. These include areas of water quality and management, soil resource management, global change, rangeland, pasture and forages, and manure and byproduct utilization. Topics include work on hydrologic, chemical, and biological processes influencing the quality of water exiting agricultural lands, exploring the effectiveness of riparian buffers and vegetative filters so as to mitigate agricultural pollution, and enhancing soil erosion prediction technology to improve conservation planning and environmental protection (http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/programs.htm). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—Includes the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the National Weather Service. The National Ocean Service works to preserve and enhance the nation’s coastal resources and ecosystems along 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.5 million square miles of coastal ocean. The National Marine Fisheries Service provides stewardship for living marine resources and endangered diadromous fishes through science-based conservation and management, as well as the management, conservation, and protection of living marine resources within the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone. The National Weather Service provides the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas with weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings, including flood warnings, which are of particular interest to river science. These services assist in the protection of life and property and enhance the national economy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also provides data and products to form a national information database and infrastructure, which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community. The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Re-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey search (OAR) studies ocean and coastal resources, weather, air quality, and climate. NOAA’s research focuses on “enhancing the understanding of environmental phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes, climate variability, solar flares, changes in the ozone, El Niño/La Niña events, fisheries productivity, ocean currents, deep sea thermal vents, and coastal ecosystem health” (http://www.noaa.gov/research.html). National Aeronautics and Space Administration—Investigates and funds external research concerning water budgets, land use and land-use change, and water quality of large river systems, much of this through its Terrestrial Hydrology Program. Data from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer–EOS (AMSR-E) instrument is providing 25-km-resolution soil moisture and snow water equivalent products that can be used in conjunction with streamgaging data for hydrologic modeling. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat imagery have been used to show snowcover and riverfloodplain interactions and to estimate suspended sediment loads and/or chlorophylla in large rivers. Federal Agencies with Management Responsibilities Affecting River Science Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture) (formerly the Soil Conservation Service)—Promotes land-use management practices aimed at reducing erosion and promoting conservation. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also acts to reduce the risks of floods and droughts in the nation’s watersheds. Through the National Water and Climate Center (NWCC), NRCS seeks to “lead the development and transfer of water and climate information and technology which support natural resource conservation” (http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov). The NWCC conducts water-related project activities in five key areas: interagency coordination, special projects, technology transfer, water policy, and watershed marketing (http://wmc.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/about/). Bureau of Land Management (Department of the Interior)—Responsible for managing hundreds of millions of acres of grasslands, forests, high mountains, arctic tundra, and deserts, mostly in the western United States. The resources and uses it oversees include energy and minerals, timber, forage, wild horse and burro populations, fish and wildlife habitat, and wilderness areas. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is also responsible for portions of 38 wild and scenic rivers, which have a combined length of over 2000 miles (http://www.blm.gov/nhp/facts/index.htm). The BLM’s Research and Development Program focuses on relevant uses of new data, information, and knowledge to improve the management of the nation’s lands and resources, including rivers. Although the BLM does its own research, it relies heavily on the USGS, which acts as the primary research-science support organization for the entire Depart-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey ment of the Interior (http://www.blm.gov/budget/ 2007just/2007researchanddevelop.pdf). National Park Service (Department of the Interior)—Responsible for preserving, protecting, and sharing the land and cultural legacies of nearly 400 distinct areas that cover more then 84 million acres. In managing the water resources on these lands, including sections of designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, the National Park Service (NPS) works in partnership with multiple government agencies and cooperators to share information and undertake special projects. One example of the NPS efforts to improve water resource management is the Hydrology and Watershed Management Program, which administers programs in the areas of watershed condition assessment, surface-water hydrology, floodplain management and compliance, groundwater use and protection, and stream and riparian management (http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/hydrology.cfm). Tennessee Valley Authority—Established by Congress in 1933 primarily to provide navigation, flood control, and agricultural and industrial development and to promote the use of electric power in the Tennessee Valley. It is the nation’s largest public power provider, and its 2004 strategic plan is focused primarily on changes in its business environment (i.e., energy markets and financing) (http://www.tva.gov/abouttva/stratplan/tva_strategic_plan.pdf). Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) river management emphasizes flood reduction, river transportation, power production, water quality, recreation, and wise land use. The TVA conducts extensive monitoring of its reservoirs and streams for environmental health (http://www.tva.gov/environment/-ecohealth/index.htm), but its research in river science areas is limited. At its research facility in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, TVA develops tools and methods to minimize and clean up pollution from industrial, municipal, and agricultural systems. The major focuses are atmospheric sciences, biotechnology, contaminated site remediation, and prevention of water pollution from nonpoint sources. The Muscle Shoals reservation houses the nation’s leading constructed wetlands R&D facility (http://www.tva.gov/abouttva/keyfacts.htm#protectenv). Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—An independent agency responsible for reviewing, licensing, relicensing, and decommissioning federally licensed hydroelectric power dams. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has no specific river science activities although the scientific effort that is undertaken as part of periodic licensing contributes considerable information about the aquatic ecosystem. STATE AGENCIES AND TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS Under the U.S. Constitution, state governments exercise title and rights to property, including the use of water within their states. Native American tribes exercise responsibility as custodians of the public trust for protection of waters

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey and for management of water resource activities on tribal lands. Most states and many tribes have established agencies, which parallel many federal agencies, to deal with water-related issues. The federal government, however, has ultimate authority over the United States’ navigable waters for the regulation of activity and use of water for the production of hydroelectric power and to prevent pollution in all waters. States set water-quality standards for rivers within their jurisdiction and submit these standards for approval by the EPA. In turn, they conduct water-quality monitoring and make periodic assessments that are also submitted to the EPA. They also monitor flow parameters either on their own or as cost-share partners with the USGS. In many cases they also gather and store data concerning aquatic flora and fauna within their boundaries, conduct studies to assist in management of riverine areas, and work on specific programs and projects in conjunction with other federal agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service. The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) represent the government agencies—mostly at the state level—responsible for North America’s fish and wildlife resources. IAFWA has the lead role in the National Fish Habitat Initiative, a broad-based effort targeted at fisheries restoration in key watersheds. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are the principal federal partners, the Biological Resources Discipline of the USGS also supports the initiative. The Instream Flow Council (IFC) was formed in 1998 by state and provincial fish and wildlife management agencies in the United States and Canada. Its primary mission is “to improve the effectiveness of state and provincial instream flow programs and administrators in protecting, maintaining and restoring aquatic ecosystems” (http://www.instreamflowcouncil.org). Over the next 20 years, the IFC hopes to become a recognized authority and source of information about instream flow science, policy, and administration. They have published several editions of the book “Instream Flows for Riverine Resource Stewardship (Annear et al., 2002). River basin commissions are another kind of multistate entity with an interest in rivers. For example, the newly formed Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MoRAST) represents nonfederal game and fish agencies, tribal interests, and water management agencies from seven states and a tribal water rights coalition. Previously, the state water management agencies and the tribal coalition belonged to the Missouri River Basin Association, while the state game and fish agencies belonged to the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), whose members include representatives from the basin states of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, and a federal representative, is another such organization. This regional body has the force of law to oversee a unified approach to managing the river system without regard to political boundaries (http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/). The upper Colorado, Ohio, and Susquehanna Rivers also have river basin commissions.

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey River basin commissions are often more focused on policy than science. However, they often have interests in applied science (e.g., flow management, water supply, flood warning and loss reduction, water quality, and effects of river basin management on the downstream estuary [Robert Tudor, DRBC, written communication, June 14, 2005]). NONGOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES A wide variety of nongovernmental entities are involved in aspects of river science. Generally, their river science activities are supported by agencies of the government at both state and local levels. These entities include academic institutions, private firms, and natural resources advocacy groups. Academic institutions conduct considerable river science research and in some cases collect data to support this research and develop models or techniques that are used for analysis or decision support. Both their data and tools are frequently made available to federal and state agencies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports both individual and group-related river science research. Single investigator and small team research grants often provide an innovative source for new theory development. These compliment the NSF’s support of several academic consortia or networks in water or water-related fields. These include the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Incorporated (CUAHSI), the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and the Collaborative, Large-scale, Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research (CLEANER). These initiatives are still in an early phase of development, but when they develop they will likely be major drivers in river basin research and potential partners for the USGS. All of these initiatives emphasize observatories in which geographically distributed network sensors and other instrumentation and infrastructure will be used to answer questions related to water quality, the water cycle, ecology, and related topics. An existing but more loosely connected network is the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, also supported by the NSF. This is a collaborative effort of more than 1800 scientists and students investigating ecological processes in 26 sites that represent many different ecosystems and research emphases. Many of these sites include rivers in their study area and are both producers and consumers of river data and information. The National River Restoration Science Synthesis (NRRSS) Project is a national-level synthesis of stream restoration projects that involves researchers from many different academic institutions. Its goal is to “analyze the extent, nature, scientific basis and success of stream river restoration projects, and to present this information in a way that is useful to scientists, restoration practitioners, and those making policy decisions on what kinds of projects ought to receive priority for funding and implementation” (http://www.restoringrivers.org). The program has a database of over 37,000 restoration sites. While the USGS is involved primarily in large-scale river restoration activities, the syn-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey In 2004, a National Research Council committee strongly endorsed the general design and goals of NSIP. To assure the long-term viability of the USGS to satisfy national needs for streamflow information, the report included the recommendation for direct federal support for a base streamgaging network (NRC, 2004d). It also recommended that: The ultimate goal of NSIP should be the ability to generate streamflow information with quantitative confidence limits at any location—not just gauged locations—in the stream network; and The principle of adaptive management should be incorporated explicitly into the NSIP, including periodic reevaluation of the national gage network to ensure it continues to meet the nation’s current and anticipated future needs for streamflow information. Of greatest relevance to this report, the NRC report highlighted the vital role of NSIP in supporting a national river science initiative. The report identified the needs and opportunities for characterizing river systems using a more comprehensive data delivery system that focused on streambed characteristics and sediment and velocity distributions in addition to discharge. The report also identified crest stage data, slope-area data from flood studies, gaging station channel geometry, and bed sediment characteristics as historical data of value for river science if “rescued” from historical, nondigital files. Beyond the data values and measurements, the committee recommended that the USGS identify watersheds that have high-quality hydrologic and land-use/land-cover information as candidate basins in which to emphasize data recovery and synthesis. Such a “discovered” network was proposed as a pragmatically identifiable set of experimental watersheds to be used to support river science investigations of how land-use change affects river systems. The watersheds defined by the “sentinel” NSIP river gages (gages identified to provide monitoring of long-term trends in the nation’s streamflow) were similarly suggested to be candidate watersheds for expanding the characterization of stream morphology reference points, in addition to their NSIP role as streamflow reference points. Examples that highlight the value of information generated from the national streamgaging network include regional and national applications in climate change (Figure 3-2), flooding (Figure 3-3), and ecohydrologic classifications (Poff, 1996). National Stream Quality Accounting Network Two national monitoring programs routinely monitor river water quality: the National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) and the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. NASQAN is federally funded (Fiscal Year 2005 about $2.3 million) and has been in operation since 1973.

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey FIGURE 3-2 Trends in the date of center of mass of annual flow (CT) for snowmelt-dominated gauges. Shading indicates magnitude of the trend expressed as the change (days) in timing over 1948-2000. Larger symbols indicate statistically significant trends at the 90 percent confidence level. The figure shows that widespread and regionally coherent trends toward earlier onsets of springtime snowmelt and streamflow have taken place across most of western North America due to higher winter and spring temperatures. SOURCE: Adapted, with permission, from Stewart et al. (2005). © 2005 by the America Meteorological Society. NASQAN was created to address difficulties identified by Wolman (1971) in performing statistical analysis of water quality, namely, short record length and changes in locations and sampling frequency. The original NASQAN objectives included (1) account for the quantity and quality of water moving within and from the United States, (2) depict areal variability, (3) detect changes in stream quality, and (4) lay the groundwork for future assessments of change in stream quality (Ficke and Hawkinson, 1975). NASQAN stations are located at the terminus of hydrologic accounting units, which are identified with the third-order hydrologic basin classifications developed by the USGS Office of Water Data Coordination (Langford and Davis, 1970). Sample analysis includes nutrients along with major ions, trace elements, field parameters, and indicator bacteria. At the peak of operation, NASQAN’s network included more than 500 stations that were sampled monthly. Over the years, NASQAN operations have been reduced or changed due primarily to budget constraints. By 1990, about 400 stations were sampling only on a quarterly scheme. In 1996, NASQAN underwent a major redesign that reduced the number of stations to 40 but increased the sampling frequency to

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey FIGURE 3-3 Top 10 percent of annual peak discharges from each of 14,815 streamgaging stations. These data were further stratified on a unit discharge basis into ~ 90th and ~ 99th percentiles by the depicted lines. Within the conterminous United States, the greatest concentration of exceptional unit discharges is in central Texas, where maximum rainfall amounts apparently coincide with appropriate basin physiography. This may help explain why Texas has nearly twice the average annual flood-related fatalities of any other state. SOURCE: Adapted, with permission from O’Connor and Costa (2004). © 2004 by American Geophysical Union. once a month. They also added three high-flow samples per year, and the constituent coverage was expanded to include pesticides and suspended sediment chemistry. In Fiscal Year 2005, NASQAN operated 33 stations, which included stations on the Mississippi (17 sites), Rio Grande (8 sites), Yukon (4 sites), Colorado (2 sites), and Columbia (1 site) Rivers. Nutrient data has been included in every NASQAN sample collected since 1973. As a result, many stations have 20 years or more of nutrient measurements. One of the most productive uses of this dataset has been in a national model of total nitrogen and total phosphorus transport, using the SPARROW (Spatially Referenced Regression on Watershed attributes) model (Smith et al., 1997). They used a subset of 414 stations from NASQAN to estimate total nitrogen yield from watersheds in the conterminous United States. Such modeling has also been valuable in estimating the transport of total nitrogen from subbasins of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, which has helped in investigating questions and concerns about hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey The historical and current NASQAN data are stored in the USGS National Water Information System and are available to the public after quality assurance. With the major network changes in 1996, the USGS created a CD-ROM of all the historical (1973-1995) NASQAN data (http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/dds/wqn96cd/-html/report/contents.htm). This data publication outlines the history of the network operations, including the smaller Hydrologic Benchmark Network. Recent NASQAN data is available at http://water.usgs.gov/nasqan/data/index.html. A summary of the data collected by the redesigned network operations is at http://water.usgs.gov/nasqan/-progdocs/wri014255/index.htm, and a collection of articles written after the first five years of operating the redesigned NASQAN is available at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgibin/jissue/82002952. National Water-Quality Assessment Program The second national river water-quality monitoring program, the NAWQA Program, began in 1991. NAWQA goals include (1) a description of water-quality conditions, (2) identification of time trends in water-quality conditions, and (3) an understanding of the causes, both natural and anthropogenic, for the conditions and time trends. NAWQA has created more than 1000 publications and a unique nationally consistent water-quality dataset. Much of the NAWQA information is available at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/. NAWQA has conducted studies in 51 major river basins and aquifer systems, which cover about one-half the land area of the conterminous United States. Studies by the NAWQA Program from 1991 to 2001 describe water-quality conditions in nearly 120 agricultural and 35 urban watersheds. The findings show that for urban and agricultural areas, nonpoint chemical contamination by nutrients is an issue. The findings also show that water-quality conditions and aquatic health vary according to a complex combination of land and chemical use, land-management practices, human population density, and watershed development, as well as with season and natural features, such as soils, geology, hydrology, and climate. In the second decade of the NAWQA Program (2001-2010), in-depth and process-oriented studies are underway to investigate the effects of nutrient enrichment on aquatic ecosystems, as well as the sources, transport, and fate of nutrients and other agricultural chemicals in streams and shallow groundwater. The NAWQA Data Warehouse (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/data) is a publicly available database containing results from samples collected at about 6400 stream sites, 7000 wells (including more than 2000 domestic wells), and more than 1000 sites where fish, invertebrate, and algal communities (species and relative abundance) data are collected. These samples have been analyzed for nutrients, pesticides, and a variety of other contaminants. Data can be retrieved by select-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey ing options such as concentrations for an individual or group of chemicals or data from one or multiple states, counties, or river basins. Toxic Substances Hydrology Program The Toxic Substances Hydrology Program provides scientific information on the contamination of surface water and groundwater, land, and atmosphere by toxic substances, such as organic chemicals, pathogens, and excessive nutrients. This information is then used to aid in developing policy and remediation measures to protect human and environmental health. Components of the program include field investigations and process-based studies of contamination affecting aquatic ecosystems. The development of predictive models to assess the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment is also an integral part of their effort (http://toxics.usgs.gov). National Research Program in the Hydrological Sciences The National Research Program (NRP) is a centrally coordinated program that conducts basic and problem-oriented research within the Water Resources Discipline. The program focuses on (1) the study and application of hydrologic principles to particular geographic settings or water-resources problems, and (2) fundamental research addressing hydrologic processes and principles that are related to broad geographic areas or problems (USGS, 2005). The program, initiated in the late 1950s, has grown to span components integral to river science. Recent activities include experiments to entrain sediments and rebuild lost sandbar deposits along the river channel during controlled flood releases from Glen Canyon Dam, the use of environmental tracers to track nitrogen contamination, and investigations of biological and microbiological processes affecting water quality, ecology, and biogeochemistry of surface and groundwater (USGS, 2005). Scientists in the NRP are primarily located at the USGS Regional Centers in Reston, Virginia, Denver, Colorado, and Menlo Park, California, and provide scientific leadership on many areas within the Water Resources Discipline; many of the USGS’s major initiatives on national water resources issues come from research initiated within the NRP. NRP scientists also support project teams within the WRD Water Science Centers and actively engage in other major programs of the USGS, including NSIP, NAWQA, and the Toxic Substances Hydrology program (http://water.usgs.gov/nrp/). Cooperative Water Program The Cooperative Water Program (Coop Program) was initiated in 1895 and continues to provide cost sharing for the USGS to partner with nonfederal water resources agencies (e.g., state, local, and tribal agencies, as well as conservation,

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey water-supply, and flood-control districts). The three components of the program are data collection, interpretive studies, and national synthesis. In 2003, cooperators supported streamgaging at about 4200 stations, more than half of the entire streamgaging network (Taggart, 2004). Cooperators also supported monitoring of groundwater levels and, increasingly, water-quality monitoring for compliance with the total maximum daily load (TMDL) provision of the Clean Water Act. Data collected through these activities are publicly available through National Water Information System. The USGS and its cooperators jointly plan their scientific work strategy to meet the local needs of the cooperator and also provides science information for the nation. For example, the Coop Program supports over 700 interpretive studies per year, often on emerging issues of national significance, such as the relationship between land-use changes and the physical habitat of streams (Jacobson et al., 2001). Because the data collection activities use nationally consistent procedures and quality assurance protocols, they provide critical information for national syntheses, including recent studies of both regional droughts and trends in streamflow and the development of predictive tools for estimating travel time in rivers. Current topics of national interest for the Coop Program include fluvial sediment, changes in flood frequency, a synthesis of water-quality information, and the determination of water needs for ecological functions (http://water.usgs.gov/coop/). USGS Nutrient Projects Besides the national monitoring programs, the Water Resources Discipline has many activities/projects that encompass assessment and research around nutrient issues, going beyond the routine monitoring of stream and groundwater conditions. These are done as special projects across USGS regional offices as well as individual research efforts. Past and current projects include nutrient budgets, nutrient sources and transformation, nutrient impacts on receiving waters and aquatic communities, and new/improved methods to measure nutrients. An improved understanding of a system’s nutrient budget is often an objective for various cooperative projects with state, county, or municipal agencies so as to better manage identified problems. Often the problems are excessive algae or other aquatic plant growth, which could result in aesthetic, taste, and odor issues. Nutrient sources are of increasing interest because of TMDL requirements under the Clean Water Act and because nutrient source information can help identify where management should focus resources to improve or protect water quality. The USGS has used various techniques to identify nutrient sources. These include measuring nutrients from various land-use settings, including atmospheric deposition; using stable isotopes of nitrogen species, which often vary according to source; employing GIS databases on fertilizer use, manure

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey applications, and animal feeding operations; and making use of models for nutrient movement and transformation, such as the previously mentioned SPARROW model. USGS interest in nutrient transformation includes looking at flow paths in streams, soil-unsaturated zones, streams, and aquifers to determine changes in nutrient species and mass balance. USGS is also doing research on nutrient impacts to aquatic ecosystems. Ongoing studies include NAWQA through Topical Studies. Two of direct relevance to nutrient issues are Nutrient Enrichment on Ecological Systems (http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs11803/) and the Agricultural Chemical Transport Studies (http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs20043098/). An overview of NAWQA work on nutrient enrichment and criteria is at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/informing/nutrient.html. Finally, the USGS is also studying ways of improving measurements of nutrient concentrations in the laboratory and in situ. For example, the Kjeldahl method in the laboratory has been replaced with a persulfate method, and field auto analyzers that will allow the continuous measurement of nutrient concentrations are being evaluated. Crosscutting Programs There are various interdisciplinary efforts at the USGS. These include formal programs, such as the Science Impact Program, housed in the office of the associate director for geography, whose goal is to increase the use and value of USGS science in decision making. They also include initiatives, such as the Priority Ecosystems Science Initiative, housed in the office of the associate director for biology, and the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, coordinated in the BRD and with “points of contact” in the water resources and geographic disciplines (as well as at the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management). In addition, there are less formal entities, such as the Human Health Coordinating Committee, which includes managers from such diverse units as the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, National Wildlife Health Center, Mineral Resources Program, Geographic Analysis and Mapping Program, Cooperative Water Program, and Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources Program. Likewise, USGS Global Change Research activities are loosely coordinated through the Earth Surface Dynamics program of the Geology Discipline. The Priority Ecosystems Science Initiative is described in more detail below. Priority Ecosystems Science Initiative The Priority Ecosystems Science (PES) Initiative supports adaptive management of ecosystems through studies designed both to address local management needs for science information and to provide knowledge and approaches

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey that can be transferred to similar ecosystems elsewhere. The initiative focuses on six ecosystems facing critical degradation that have significant societal value: Chesapeake Bay; Greater Yellowstone area; Mojave Desert; Platte River; San Francisco Bay; and the greater Everglades. The initiative involves experts of all the USGS science disciplines in an effort to gain a systemwide understanding of the natural and human factors affecting ecosystems, as well as their response to adaptive management decisions. For example, on the Platte River, diversions and regulations of upstream flows have significantly altered the flow regime, creating changes in the river and riparian corridors, which now threaten several species of migratory birds. Integrated studies of the linkages between hydrology, river morphology, biological communities, and ecosystem processes are underway to develop approaches to sustain or restore the habitat of threatened and endangered species (http://access.usgs.gov/index.html). Clearly the PES Initiative deserves a close look as a potential mechanism or channel for river science at the USGS, given its interdisciplinary nature, focus on ecosystems, and experience with rivers and their associated estuaries and wetlands. At present the initiative is moderate in size, but it has considerable potential for upscaling to include a larger number of projects with a variety of themes. USGS ROLE IN RIVER SCIENCE In Chapter 2 this report defines river science as an integrative multidisciplinary science, structured and conducted to develop a process-based, predictive understanding of the functions of river systems and their responses to current and projected natural variability and human activities. Many federal agencies have important roles in river science research arising from their mission and objectives. Those agencies are already making significant progress in addressing the multidisciplinary river science issues identified in Chapter 2. Likewise, the USGS role in river science should reflect its own history (Box 3-1), mandate, and capabilities, and these factors help define its responsibility within river science. Key attributes that help direct the USGS vision for future activities in river science are identified below. Science Information Mission—Unique among federal agencies, the USGS has no regulatory, management, or advocacy mission. Instead, its mission is to provide science information for the nation. In that role the USGS has a well-deserved reputation as an impartial provider of science information and is recog-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey BOX 3-1 History of Integrative River Science at the USGS The USGS has a history of engaging in integrative river science. The root of many of today’s most timely hydrologic and water resources management challenges reflect the integrative science that has been a hallmark of the USGS’s water resources programs. Examples include G. K. Gilbert’s pioneering scientific study of the movement and impacts of sediment in river systems draining hydraulically mined sediment areas in the Sierra Nevada (1914, 1917), which, while primarily focused on hydraulics, might be called the world’s first environmental impact assessment. Other studies chronicled the significance of climatic drought (Hoyt, 1938) and topographic characteristics of drainage basins (Langbein, 1947). Much of the modern practice of stream restoration has its foundation in Leopold and Maddock’s (1953) classical work on the hydraulic geometry of streams. Similarly, the emergence of modern groundwater hydrology and hydrogeology is based on the vision of integrative science championed at the USGS by Oscar Meinzer. The national focus on watershed management was presaged by investigations such as Wolman’s (1955) classical study of Brandywine Creek. And the scientific heritage of the most timely issues in current watershed management can be found at the USGS in areas as diverse as the role of ephemeral streams in drainage networks (Leopold and Miller, 1956), ecohydrology (Leopold, 1960), and urban hydrology (Savini and Kammerer, 1961; Leopold, 1968), and in fundamental contributions to understanding sediment transport (Bagnold, 1966), channel form and pattern (Leopold and Wolman, 1957; Wolman and Leopold, 1957; Leopold et al., 1960; Bagnold, 1960; Langbein and Leopold, 1968), and statistical analysis of the quantity (Matalas, 1963) and quality of the nation’s rivers (Smith et al., 1987; Gilroy et al., 1989). nized for its rigorous process of scientific peer review. This lends credibility to USGS data and information on the nation’s rivers, which is critical for resolving conflicts among competing and often contentious policy alternatives. Multidisciplinary Staff—The USGS is a multidisciplinary earth science agency. It has the ability to bring together the scientific expertise among its many disciplines—hydrologists and geomorphologists, biologists and river ecologists, geologists, geographers, and geospatial information scientists—to formulate and execute an integrative river science initiative as envisioned in this report. Data Collection and Monitoring Expertise—The USGS has a long heritage of serving the nation by collecting reliable scientific data and information. Its monitoring activities are distinguished for their scientific rigor and quality control. The USGS has also been a leader in the development of instrumentation for river monitoring. Furthermore, its data distribution infrastructure, including National Water Information System, National Biological Information Infrastructure, and The National Map, provides access to essential data resources needed for river research and management decisions.

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey National Science Synthesis Experience—The USGS has excelled in providing needed science synthesis on national issues related to natural resources. It has demonstrated its ability to formulate scientific plans to address information needs, execute monitoring programs to gather critical data, and carry out research that answers overarching questions and promotes scientific understanding. Organizational Structure—The USGS structure can support river science at both local and national scales and encourages river science activities in all forms—bottom-up, top-down, and community-driven. For example, the Water Resources Discipline, with its science centers, Cooperative Water Program, and National Research Program, provides a framework for river science activities at a local scale, while informing a broader science synthesis at a national scale. Place-based multidisciplinary research activities, and the Biological Resources Discipline’s collaborative efforts with university researchers and students at Cooperative Research Units, are also good templates for river science activities. In line with these roles, strengths, and capabilities, the USGS is best poised of all the federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations to investigate rivers as systems, and determine how the critical system components relate to each other. Fulfilling this natural role will require (1) river science program elements in both crosscutting and focused scientific priority areas (Chapter 4), (2) river science monitoring and data management to support river science synthesis and information generation to support decision making (Chapter 5), and (3) institutional capacity building within the USGS, and programmatic integration and coordination across disciplines and existing program elements (Chapter 6). The specific recommendations for USGS activities in these areas are discussed in detail in the subsequent chapters. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION The USGS combines scientific, technical, and data collection expertise with a long history and exemplary reputation as the nation’s source of unbiased policy-relevant information on earth system sciences. As an agency with no regulatory, management, or advocacy mission, and a history of doing basic science aimed at the public good, the USGS fills the important federal agency niche of providing the scientific connections between what is done in river science by other agencies, which are mostly projects driven by specific societal needs and often at the local scale. For these reasons the USGS is ideally suited and uniquely capable of serving the nation by prosecuting the kind of integrative multidisciplinary river science initiative envisioned in this report. Recommendation: The USGS should establish a river science initiative to bring together disparate elements of the USGS to focus their efforts to deal with growing river science challenges. The ini-

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River Science at the U.S. Geological Survey tiative should build upon the USGS’s history, mandate, and capabilities. It should take advantage of key attributes of the institution, such as its mission as provider of unbiased science information, multidisciplinary staff, data collection and monitoring expertise, experience in science synthesis at many scales, and organizational structure that combines national research programs with state-, watershed-, and university-based cooperative programs. In carrying out the initiative, the USGS should closely coordinate with other federal agencies involved in river science and related activities.