New Strategies For America's Watersheds

Committee on Watershed Management

Water Science and Technology Board

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1999



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--> New Strategies For America's Watersheds Committee on Watershed Management Water Science and Technology Board Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1999

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--> NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority under Contract No. TV-93635V, the Environmental Protection Agency under Grant No. GR 823884-01-0 and X826699-01-0, the McKnight Foundation under Grant No. 94-990, the former National Biological Service under Grant Agreement No. 1445-GT09-95-0017, the Natural Resources Conservation Service under Cooperative Agreement No. 68-3A75-5-175, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation under Grant No. 1425-96-FG-81-07009, and the National Water Research Institute. New Strategies for America's Watersheds is available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Box 285, Washington, DC 20418 (1-800-624-6242; http://www.nap.edu). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data New strategies for America's watersheds / Committee on Watershed Management, Water Science and Technology Board, Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-309-06417-1 (casebound) 1. Watershed management—United States. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Watershed Management. TC423 .N46 1999 333.73—dc21 98-58156 Cover: The watersheds of Arizona appear on this digital map created by Ray Sterner of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. The image, with north at the top, shows an area about 200 by 150 miles, with the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon at the top. The Colorado Plateau occupies the top and upper right portions of the view, with the Basin and Range terrain visible in the lower left. Between the two is a northwest-southeast trending transition zone of mountainous terrain. The oblong blue feature in the lower center of the image is Roosevelt Lake, impounded by Theodore Roosevelt Dam. This image, and similar ones for all states, is available on the World Wide Web at http://fermi.jhupal.edu/states/states.html. Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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--> COMMITTEE ON WATERSHED MANAGEMENT WILLIAM L. GRAF, Chair, Arizona State University, Tempe CLIFTON J. AICHINGER, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Maplewood, Minnesota BLAKE P. ANDERSON, Orange County Sanitation Districts, Fountain Valley, California GABOURY BENOIT, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut PETER A. BISSON, USDA. Forest Service, Olympia, Washington MARGOT W. GARCIA, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond JAMES P. HEANEY, University of Colorado, Boulder CAROL A. JOHNSTON, University of Minnesota, Duluth LEONARD J. LANE, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Tucson, Arizona CAROLYN HARDY OLSEN, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco GARY W. PETERSEN, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park MAX J. PFEFFER, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York LEONARD SHABMAN, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg JACK STANFORD, University of Montana, Polson STANLEY W. TRIMBLE, University of California, Los Angeles Staff CHRIS ELFRING, Study Director ANGELA F. BRUBAKER, Research Assistant (through May 14, 1997) ANITA HALL, Senior Project Assistant

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--> WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD HENRY J. VAUX JR., Chair, University of California, Riverside CAROL A. JOHNSTON, Vice-Chair, University of Minnesota, Duluth JOHN S. BOYER, University of Delaware, Lewes JOHN BRISCOE, The World Bank, Washington, D.C. DENISE FORT, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque EVILLE GORHAM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul THOMAS M. HELLMAN, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York, New York CHARLES D. D. HOWARD, Charles Howard & Associates, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada WILLIAM A. JURY, University of California, Riverside WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., University of Colorado, Boulder RICHARD G. LUTHY, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JOHN W. MORRIS, J. W. Morris, Ltd., Arlington, Virginia CHARLES R. O'MELIA, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland REBECCA T. PARKIN, American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C. FRANK W. SCHWARTZ, Ohio State University, Columbus ERIC F. WOOD, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director JACQUELINE A. MACDONALD, Associate Director CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer LAURA EHLERS, Staff Officer JEFFREY JACOBS, Staff Officer JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant ELLEN DE GUZMAN, Senior Project Assistant KIMBERLY SWARTZ, Project Assistant

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--> COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER (Chairman), University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, CA THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts JUDITH E. MCDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. HUGH C. MORRIS, Canadian Global Change Program, Delta, British Columbia RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT M. HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY H. SYMMES, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative & Financial Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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--> The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William' A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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--> Preface ". . . the belief that the social dilemmas created by the machine can be solved merely by inventing more machines is today a sign of half-baked thinking which verges close to quackery." Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1934. "[Restoration] will not happen by regulation, changes in the law, more money, or any of the normal bureaucratic approaches. It will only occur through the integration of ecology, economic, and social factors, and participation of affected interests." Letter creating the National Riparian Service Team, 1996. The late twentieth century is a time of change in the way Americans perceive and manage water and its associated resources. The nation is poised at the end of an era in which we viewed water and riparian environments as commodities, and in which we spent trillions of dollars building the machines of water control: storage dams, diversion works, canals, levees, and artificial channels. This investment accurately reflected the country's focus on economic development and the control of natural processes. The last two decades, however, have brought greater emphasis on environmental quality and integrated management. The Clean Water Act strongly expresses this new perspective by establishing as a national goal the restoration and maintenance of the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. This new goal will not likely be achieved through the construction of

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--> additional control works, more regulations, or more money. Rather, the new ethic of sustaining economic prosperity while preserving environmental quality will require management approaches that integrate human and natural systems. What will these new management approaches be? What will they use as scientific underpinnings? Watershed-based approaches offer a promising way to achieve this integration.' By their nature, watershed-based management strategies are integrative, drawing on concepts from the physical, biological, social, and economic sciences. Not surprisingly, they have emerged just as many sciences are beginning to emphasize integrative, system-based approaches to environmental research that examine entire systems rather than analytic approaches that examine only the parts of systems. Thus we find both science and policy moving toward integrative systems. Unfortunately, communications among scientific disciplines is often difficult, and given the compartmentalized training of many scientists, communications between scientists and policymakers is even more haphazard. This report grew out of a recognition of the emerging trends toward integrative watershed management and the need to improve communication between scientists and decisionmakers. In 1996, several agencies asked the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and their investigative arm, the National Research Council (NRC), to provide advice on the utility and limitations of the watershed-based policy-making and management. The Environmental Protection Agency took a prominent role in this request, because the agency was beginning its Watershed Initiative to deal with nonpoint source pollution, a problem inadequately addressed through traditional approaches. The Tennessee Valley Authority, itself defined by the geographic boundaries of a river basin, supported the review effort in part to produce guidance for its Clean Water Initiative, an innovative approach to water-quality problems that is organized according to smaller watersheds within the Tennessee Valley. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation Service), an agency with a long and venerable history of watershed management mostly for agricultural purposes, also sponsored the NRC review. The Forest Service provided support because the agency has as part of its charter the requirement to manage watersheds on a significant component of the nation' s public lands. Other governmental supporters included the Bureau of Reclamation, an agency charged with development and management of western water resources, and the U.S. Geological Survey, the nation's primary source of data for water science, policy, and management. In addition to these federal agencies, two nongovernmental organizations also provided support. The National Water Research Institute has broad interests in scientific research related to water. The McKnight Foundation is a major stimulant for local involvement in watershed projects in the upper Mississippi. In response to the request for advice by these organizations, the National Research Council appointed a committee of 15 scientists, planners, and public

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--> administrators. Committee members included practitioners from the fields of biology, chemistry, geography, economics, engineering, hydrology, sociology, planning, and administration. The Council and the sponsors agreed upon three specific charges for the committee: Review the range of scientific and institutional problems related to watersheds, especially water quality, water quantity, and ecosystem integrity. Evaluate selected examples of watershed management in a search for the common elements of successful management. Recommend ways for local, state, regional, and federal water managers to integrate ecological, social, and economic dimensions of watershed management. The committee addressed these charges over a two-year period. Committee members donated their time in five multiple-day meetings, which included field hearings in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Irvine, California; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. In Minneapolis, the committee participated with local, state, and regional managers in a workshop focused on issues in the Upper Mississippi Basin. During the field investigations, hearings, workshops, and meetings with scientists and administrators, the committee experienced a true adventure in modem America. We met researchers trying to unravel complex natural systems to produce better understanding for public decisions, private citizens who had organized local watershed efforts to meet a variety of goals, and administrators working to realize visions of a quality future. We also met state and local officials overrun with management problems, yet lacking sufficient financial resources to solve them, and federal officials uncertain about the future of their agencies. We saw examples where people ignored the downstream consequences of their pollution. We also met heroes who organized the chaos around them to create successful initiatives to improve both the human and the natural environment. This report contains the lessons we learned as a committee. Our report is not only for the experts. Instead, we crafted the report to be useful to readers ranging from interested lay persons to working scientists and policymakers at all levels. Underlying' the formal lessons recounted here were three more general truths. First, the way we perceive the nation as individual resource users, researchers, and decisionmakers has a direct and major impact on how we perceive problems and solutions. The problems and solutions of watershed management depend on your perspective. As shown in the Figure P1, the continental United States takes on a very different general appearance depending upon whether we use a political or a natural framework. Even different natural frameworks provide us with very different contexts. Second, watersheds are logical divisions or regions of the natural landscape, and for some purposes they are ultimately the best framework to use for management. Yet it is also true that for every natural watershed there is a "shadow watershed" defined by human and natural components that extend the decision-

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--> FIGURE P1 Three views of the geographic framework of the continental United States. (A) political, state boundaries, (B) major rivers, and (C) major watershed regions and drainage basins. SOURCE: W. L. Graf.

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--> maker's interest beyond the boundaries of the physical watershed. Whether migratory birds, hydroelectric power grids, or other factors are involved, we must be prepared to perceive watershed space in dimensions other than physical. Third, the devolution of political power from the federal to regional and local levels in American politics means that we must develop a new ''flexible federalism" in which the federal government maintains a newly defined role with some responsibilities while regional and local governments exert greater influence in solving problems. For the federal agencies, this arrangement means efforts increasingly in partnerships with regional and local governments. However, it does not excuse the federal government from its responsibility for representing the interests of the nation as a whole, especially regarding the setting of standards and the management of public land and water. Our work in creating this report would not have been possible without the constant oversight and contributions of Chris Elfring, who served as Study Director. Her skillful planning, guidance, and management of the committee process was a key to the successful completion of the task. She was a full partner in every respect during the meetings, workshops, debates, and writing processes. Her knowledge of government and science, her ability to work with diverse groups of people, and her professionalism in shepherding the reporting process to completion were magnificent. Angie Brubaker and Anita Hall provided valuable support in making the many complicated arrangements to allow the committee to conduct its business. Barbara Trapido-Lurie of the Department of Geography, Arizona State University, provided indispensable skill and judgment in the design and production of graphics for the report. This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. This independent review provided candid and critical comments that assisted the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and ensured that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Leo M. Eisel, McLaughlin Water Engineers, Inc., Denver, Colorado; Paul Faeth, World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.; Denise Fort, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Debra Knopman, Progressive Policy Institute, Washington, D.C.; Ronald Lacewell, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; Thomas S. Maddock, Boyle Engineering Corporation, Newport Beach, California; and Richard Sparks, Illinois Natural History Survey, Havana, Illinois. While the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.

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--> While this report represents a consensus and all the committee members contributed to writing it, probably no single committee member agrees with every detail. Our committee members came from diverse backgrounds, ethics, and professional cultures, and all were strong-willed individualists. Despite differences in background, experience, and opinion, however, compromise of divergent positions was a necessity. I express my sincere gratitude to the committee members for their contributions of valuable professional time and their amazing professional talents to this endeavor. To have engaged in this productive, difficult, and demanding enterprise, replete with opportunities for divisive debate, and to have emerged with a cohesive product produced by people with mutual respect and friendship is a success in itself. Collectively, we hope that watershed approaches will resolve part of the puzzle posed by our national desire for developing water-related resources to sustain economic prosperity, while at that same time restoring and maintaining a quality environment. WILLIAM L. GRAF, CHAIR COMMITTEE ON WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

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--> Contents     Summary   1 1   Why Watersheds?   13 2   Spatial and Temporal Scales for Watersheds   37 3   Regional Variations   56 4   Data and Information   112 5   Connecting Science and the Decisionmaker   139 6   Organizing for Watershed Management   164 7   Financing Watershed Organizations   207 8   Planning and Decisionmaking   232 9   Conclusions and Recommendations   269     Appendixes         A Water Quality Management in the United States: Major Related Legislation   283     B Watershed Data and Information on the Internet   289     C Acknowledgments   293     D Biographical Sketches of Committee Members   297     Index   303

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New Strategies For America's Watersheds

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