FY 2006 Annual Report for National Program 201 - Water Resource Management
Water is fundamental to life and is a basic requirement for virtually all of our agricultural, industrial, urban, and recreational activities, as well as the sustained health of the natural environment. As the world’s population tripled during the last century, demand for the finite amount of Earth’s fresh water resources increased by six-fold. The United Nations estimates that over 1 billion people live without access to clean water, and over 2.4 billion people lack the basic sanitation needed for human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that it will cost in excess of $150 billion to provide clean and safe water to the Nation. Fresh water supply shortages—already evident in the drought-ridden western United States—annually cost the Nation in excess of $8 billion per year in addition to untold environmental impacts. When only freshwater withdrawals are considered, agriculture is clearly the largest user of water in the United States; thus agriculture has the greatest opportunity to conserve water supplies and improve water quality through scientific discovery.
The goal of USDA/ARS Water Resource Management National Program is to manage water resources effectively and safely while protecting the environment and human and animal health. This goal will be achieved by characterizing potential hazards, developing management practices, strategies and systems to alleviate problems, and providing practices, technologies and decision support tools for the benefit of customers, stakeholders, partners, and product users. Research in this National Program addresses six component problem areas: (1) effectiveness of conservation practices; (2) irrigation water management; (3) drainage water management systems; (4) integrated soil erosion and sedimentation technologies; (5) watershed management, water availability, and ecosystem restoration; and (6) water quality protection systems.
The mission of this National Program is twofold: (1) to conduct fundamental and applied research on the processes that control water availability and quantity for the health and economic growth of U.S. citizens; and (2) to develop new and improved technologies for managing the Nation’s agricultural and water resources. Advances in knowledge and technologies provide producers, action agencies, local communities, and resource advisors with the practices, tools, models, and decision support systems they need to improve water conservation and water use efficiency in agriculture, enhance water quality, protect rural and urban communities from the ravages of drought and floods, improve agricultural and urban watersheds, and prevent the degradation of riparian areas, wetlands, and stream corridors.
ARS, in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other Federal and State agencies, has developed a watershed assessment project called the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). The purpose of CEAP is to provide a methodology for documenting the national and regional environmental effects and benefits obtained from USDA conservation program expenditures.
The National Agricultural Library (NAL), Beltsville, MD, has developed a series of 6 CEAP-related bibliographic databases that are available to the public through the NAL web site: http://www.nal.usda.gov/wqic/. This dynamic relational database offers more than 5,200 citations of current research findings from around the globe to help scientists and the public understand the environmental effects and benefits of conservation practices implemented through various USDA conservation programs.
National Program Staff continue to coordinate ARS water resource related activities with regional, national, and international partners. Outreach activities during FY2006 included sponsorship of national and international conferences to address the availability and quality of recycled water for use in agricultural sectors in association with the WaterReuse Association and the Council on Agricultural Sustainable Technology (CAST). A milestone of CEAP activities during FY2006 was the workshop, “Managing Agricultural Landscapes for Environmental Quality,” organized by the Soil and Water Conservation Society in support of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project, held Oct. 11-13, 2006, in Kansas City, MO. The workshop featured 114 contributed papers and 72 poster presentations describing the results of CEAP-related research by ARS and affiliated scientists. The proceedings of this workshop are available through the Soil and Water Conservation Society web site: http://www.swcs.org/.
The National Program Staff coordinates with other government agencies to leverage agency resources through its active participation in the following intergovernmental committees: (1) the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) (the relevant National Science and Technology Council committee for water research) Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality (SWAQ), a subcommittee within CENR devoted to water issues that serves as a forum for agency representatives to share information about their respective programs ; (2) the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board, which evaluates USDA Research and Development Programs and provides recommendations to the Secretary and REE Undersecretaries; (3) the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, charged by Congress with conducting a reassessment of (i) nutrient load reductions and the response of the hypoxic zone, (ii) water quality throughout the Mississippi River Basin, and (iii) economic and social effects, that is scheduled to be completed in November 2007; (4) the Scientific Assessment of Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms; (5) the Federal Principals’ Meeting on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration and various activities related to water quality in Chesapeake Bay; and (6) the Conservation Effects Assessment Project Steering Committee and a variety of other CEAP-related activities, to name just a few.
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