Ensuring stable water supplies has grown more complex as the challenges facing water managers continue to mount, especially in the West. Informed decisions of water users and public officials will be necessary to ensure sufficient freshwater resources in the future to support a growing population and economy.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a report that examines Western water availability, the modern role for science, and the value of monitoring and research to ensure an adequate water supply for the future. According to USGS scientist and coauthor of the report, Mark Anderson, "Effective water management in the West is challenged by increasing and often competing needs among various water users: agricultural use and consumption by cities, maintaining water reservoirs and ensuring in-stream flows for aquatic ecosystems, industrial and energy production, and recreation. Scientific information becomes a crucial factor for resource managers to support their decision-making."
Factors such as a demographic shift, climate variability (including the potential for severe sustained droughts), climate change, water-rights issues, depletion of ground water in storage, introduction of new storage and water-use technologies, and protection of endangered species, add to a growing complexity for water management. Several of the key scientific challenges are examined in this report, including the determination of sustainable ground water use and the physical habitat needs of ecosystems and individual endangered species.
Intended to help citizens and public officials better understand changing water situations in the West and the ways that new scientific understanding can support wise management of the resources, the USGS report cites examples and scientific challenges from four basins in the West that have significant water availability and sustainability concerns: Middle Rio Grande Basin, N.M., the Greater Los Angeles area, San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Ariz., and the Upper Klamath Lake, Ore.