U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Wednesday released a report to the Congress on the progress of the National Water Census, which is being developed at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help the nation address its critical water needs.
"This update to the National Water Census—the first since 1978—will give the nation critical new information about the availability and use of America's freshwater resources," said Salazar.
Water Census will assist water and resource managers in understanding and quantifying water supply and demand, and will support more sustainable management of water resources.
"It's true in other fields and no less so for water: you can't manage what you don't measure," said Anne Castle, Interior's Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.
The report describes the "water budget" approach being taken to assess water availability for the nation. Water budgets account for the inputs to, outputs from, and changes in the amount of water in the various components of the water cycle. They are the hydrologic equivalent of the deposits to, withdrawals from, and changes in the balance in a checking account and provide the hydrologic foundation for analysis of water availability.
USGS is initially focusing production of the Water Census on areas with significant competition for water availability and existing or emerging conflicts over water supply, such as the Delaware, Colorado, and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins. Increasing populations, more volatile stream flows, energy development and municipal demands, and the uncertain effects of a changing climate amplify the need for an improved understanding of water use and water availability in these crucial watersheds.
Water Census, like the National Population Census, is an ongoing effort that will provide information for current and future decision makers. USGS will continually be updating it, adding to it, and improving the accuracy of the various water budget components.
by RTT Staff Writer
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