Report assesses water monitoring systems, calls for modernization to help sustain water supplies

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WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 3, 2011 -- The Department of the Interior has released a report that assesses the status of scientific information available to help understand the impacts of climate change and other stressors on U.S. freshwater resources and calls for modernization of systems to help monitor and sustain water supplies.

The report to Congress reviews the state of existing science and identifies strategies for improving systems to collect climate-related data and water monitoring information. The improvements are intended to help water managers predict, respond and adapt to the effects of climate change on the nation's freshwater supplies so that they can help ensure adequate water quantity and quality.

"Assessing and modernizing the tools that help us understand climate change is a critical step in helping decision makers and water resource managers ensure that current and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "Sustainable supplies of water will never cease to play a critical role in public health, as well as irrigation, recreation and other activities that sustain our local communities and power our economies."

The report, entitled Strengthening the Scientific Understanding of Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources of the United States, was prepared by a federal interagency panel led by Interior's U.S. Geological Survey and developed in concert with the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The report underscores the importance of maintaining, enhancing or developing adequate water measuring and monitoring systems to track water availability and quality so that water managers can make decisions about allocations of water and the infrastructure that helps it flow with the best information available.

The report also provides suggestions about ways to modernize data systems, management, modeling and water measurement tools and highlights the need to coordinate data among agencies. Programs highlighted for modernization include: the National Streamflow Information Program, the National Groundwater Monitoring Network, and implementation of the National Water-Quality Monitoring Network.

"Freshwater is under increasing stress from changes in climate, changes in land use, and a growing demand for a variety of services related to the health and well-being of society, a vibrant economy, food production, energy reliability, and national security," said Dr. Jerad Bales, Chief of Research and Programs for Water at USGS, and one of the lead authors of the report. "Effective management of the nation's water resources will require meaningful action to address many of the shortcomings that were identified in this report on water and climate observational and modeling systems."

Today's report also builds upon the April 2011 Bureau of Reclamation report assessing the risks and impacts of climate change on western water resources. Reclamation's SECURE Water Act Report, with fact sheets highlighting climate challenges and impacts in the eight western river basins, is available online at www.usbr.gov/climate.

To implement the SECURE Water Act and to help meet the water challenges of the future, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established Interior's WaterSMART program in February 2010 -- designed to identify strategies that will ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands. Through the WaterSMART program, USGS is developing the National Water Census and will continue to work with its partner agencies to support integrated scientific research to benefit water resources.

The SMART in WaterSMART stands for "Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow." More information about WaterSMART is online at http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/

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