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National Water Census Continues to Move Forward

The USGS Ad Hoc Water Census Advisory Committee met on August 3 – 5, 2011 in Reston, VA.  The committee is made up of representatives from various Federal, state (including Paul Susca of the New Hampshire drinking water program), local governmental agencies, and non-profits (including ASDWA).

During this meeting, the committee discussed needs and options for moving forward with project tasks and timeframes in consideration of current USGS budget constraints.  The $4 million that USGS received in May for FY 2011 will support continued work on:  a nationwide analysis system; calculating and estimating water use, ecological flows, evapo-transpiration, and groundwater availability; as well as three focus area studies looking at water shortages and conflicts in the Appalachacola/Chatahoochee/Flint (ACF), the Delaware, and the Colorado River Basins.  Future funding for proposed state grants will also be limited by USGS budget reductions.

Some of the key discussions and recommendations of the committee during this meeting focused on the following:

  • Prioritizing goals based on different budget scenarios.
  • Potentially expanding the three focus area studies into demonstration projects that highlight the value of the Water Census tools and information.
  • Ensuring scientific integrity and certainty at applicable hydrologic units and timescales that recognize political boundaries.
  • Acknowledging, but not engaging in, legal or political aspects of water allocations.
  • Considering ecological flow needs in the water budget equation for determining water availability.
  • Providing consideration for all potential users and uses of the Water Census data and information, including the general public.
  • Coordinating with other entities to take advantage of available resources, avoid duplication of efforts, and maximize outputs.
  • Engaging relevant stakeholders in each aspect of the Census development efforts as they progress.

The water use section of the Census is where data from state drinking water programs, state water resources programs, and water utilities come into play.  The USGS Water Science Centers are currently working with EPA and some states to estimate public water supply and residential well water withdrawals based on population.  ASDWA will inform state drinking water programs of opportunities for input and engagement as they arise.  For more information, please contact Deirdre Mason of ASDWA at dmason@asdwa.org or 703-812-4775.