Executive Summary

Losses of life and property in the United States—and throughout the world—resulting from hydrologic hazards, including floods, droughts, and related phenomena, are significant and increasing. Public awareness of, and federal attention to, natural disaster reduction, with a focus on mitigation or preparedness so as to minimize the impacts of such events, have probably never been greater than at present. With over three-quarters of federal disaster declarations resulting from water-related events, national interest in having the best-possible hydrologic data, information, and knowledge as the basis for assessment and reduction of risks from hydrologic hazards is clear.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plays a variety of unique and critical roles relevant to hydrologic hazard understanding, preparedness, and response. The agency's data collection, research, techniques development, and interpretive studies provide the essential bases for national, state, and local hydrologic hazard risk assessment and reduction efforts. This work includes some of the more traditional activities of the Water Resources Division (e.g., streamflow measurement) and some of the more innovative interdisciplinary activities (e.g., hydrologic research, educational outreach, real-time data transmission, and risk communication) being pursued in cooperation with other divisions of the USGS, other federal and state agencies, and other local entities. This report aims to help shape a strategy and improve the overall framework of USGS efforts in these important areas.

The USGS is well known as the nation's primary supplier of reliable streamflow and water-level data and this role is essential. But the USGS should also expand its efforts to document and analyze extreme hydrologic events, both



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--> Executive Summary Losses of life and property in the United States—and throughout the world—resulting from hydrologic hazards, including floods, droughts, and related phenomena, are significant and increasing. Public awareness of, and federal attention to, natural disaster reduction, with a focus on mitigation or preparedness so as to minimize the impacts of such events, have probably never been greater than at present. With over three-quarters of federal disaster declarations resulting from water-related events, national interest in having the best-possible hydrologic data, information, and knowledge as the basis for assessment and reduction of risks from hydrologic hazards is clear. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plays a variety of unique and critical roles relevant to hydrologic hazard understanding, preparedness, and response. The agency's data collection, research, techniques development, and interpretive studies provide the essential bases for national, state, and local hydrologic hazard risk assessment and reduction efforts. This work includes some of the more traditional activities of the Water Resources Division (e.g., streamflow measurement) and some of the more innovative interdisciplinary activities (e.g., hydrologic research, educational outreach, real-time data transmission, and risk communication) being pursued in cooperation with other divisions of the USGS, other federal and state agencies, and other local entities. This report aims to help shape a strategy and improve the overall framework of USGS efforts in these important areas. The USGS is well known as the nation's primary supplier of reliable streamflow and water-level data and this role is essential. But the USGS should also expand its efforts to document and analyze extreme hydrologic events, both

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--> during and after their occurrence. The agency is ideally positioned to collect and archive the critical hydrologic information necessary to improve our understanding of how and why such extreme events happen and to improve our ability to predict them. Specifically, this scientific work should proceed according to a strategy that features: Maintaining the integrity and continuity of the national stream gaging network; Improved stream gaging network design, measurement techniques, and instrumentation for the measurement of streamflow and stream stage; Postaudits of the technical response and prediction of major floods; Improved discharge measurements of extreme floods; Improved approaches for regional flood-frequency estimation; Improved methods for drought forecasting; Investigations of the long-term stationarity of floods and droughts; and Improved techniques for low flow frequency analysis, and its relevance to instream flow management and ecologically based regulatory criteria. The USGS should build on its experience in managing and disseminating water resources data as a critical part of the hydrologic hazards program. In particular, the USGS should place new emphasis on rapid data acquisition and retrieval during extreme events and explore new methods for integrating datasets over several scientific disciplines. Geographic information systems technology may offer techniques for integrating, analyzing, and displaying dissimilar datasets for improved analyses of hydrologic hazards. Rapid expansion of Internet use has had a great influence on USGS's approach to disseminating hydrologic data and related information. The agency is currently offering real-time data on the Internet for more than 3,900 stream gaging stations, and the number will continue to grow. This capability of acquiring and disseminating data in real time expands the ''customer-base'' and "products" of the USGS. The principal customers are no longer only researchers, planners, and designers; customers now include emergency managers and the public. Beyond the expansion of real-time monitoring networks, the USGS is encouraged to add risk-based interpretation to its hydrologic data, such as comparison with historical data and simulated visualizations of flood inundation areas. USGS can take the lead in improving hydrologic understanding through improved "visualization" approaches that integrate the agency's expertise in long-term monitoring, mapping, and process modeling. The committee recommends that the USGS consider giving significant new attention to outreach activities. This report concludes that the USGS should play a prominent role in risk-based decision making with respect to hydrologic hazards. Specifically, in addition to being a provider of data, the USGS should conduct research on techniques for estimating the probability and magnitude of extreme hydrologic events in the

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--> context of risk-based decision making. This work should consider how changes in land use, climate, and streamflow regulation influence hydrologic hazards. It should also improve integrated risk and process models related to floods and droughts. The USGS should couple its role in the analysis of risk to its outreach role in communicating to the general public what that risk means. One way to characterize this outreach mission would be to describe the USGS role as helping decision makers avoid being "surprised." The ultimate goal of the hydrologic hazards program is to assist in protecting the lives and property of citizens from naturally occurring hazards while at the same time maintaining and protecting ecological communities. This goal requires that hazards information and research results be communicated to the public, and to public officials, in a timely and understandable manner. It is critical that the USGS maintain and develop liaisons with federal and nonfederal institutions in the research, management, and user communities to assure that efforts are pursued in an integrated and coordinated fashion. In addition, USGS scientists should be encouraged to participate as individuals in public discussions of hazards issues.