National Liaison Committee Meeting for the NWQP — Part 4

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In these videos, speakers discuss upcoming changes to the USGS National Water Quality Program (NAWQA Project) and three new priority areas for the USGS Water Mission Area. Gary Rowe discusses plans for transitioning from current NAWQA Project activities to the new priority areas. Chad Wagner discusses plans for the Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS), which will provide high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity and quality. Katie Skalak presents information on the Water Prediction Work Program, or 2WP, an ambitious federal partnership for developing a national, interagency new capacity for water prediction. And Mindi Dalton shares plans for the Integrated Water Availability Assessments (IWAAs), which will predict water availability for human and ecological uses at regional and national scales.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:24:12

Location Taken: Washington, DC, US


- [Man] With water availability assessments.

- Hey, so good morning. And a lot of what we've heard this morning, well most everything of what we've heard so far this morning is gonna be critical to the successful implementation of these integrated water availability assessments. And so a lot of what I'm gonna focus on is talking about how all of these things will work together across the nation and regionally. So everybody has already touched on a few of these next slides, but I think it's really important that we convey that there was a lot of work that went into helping us determine the directions for the Water Mission Area and moving forward. Back in 2013, USGS Water Mission Area did a, developed a science strategy that outlined these eight topics. I'm sure you'll agree that these are, issues that we still are working to address and they, quite honestly, are very similar to a lot of the issues that were, that came out as part of the National Academies Recommendations. Both Katie and Chad have talked about these a little bit, but these sorts of strategies of the National Academy report have gone a long way to help, one, sort of form our thinking and what our priorities should be and two, kinda help reaffirm that the direction that we're thinking about going is indeed very important and it helped to solidify a lot of our thinking along the way. Some other things that have helped me, specifically in planning for my program, have been things like SECURE Water Act which was passed in 2009 and actually was the impotence for creating the Water Availability and Use Science Program. Congress called on us directly to do that and the SECURE Water Act. I show this wordle because I created it. You know, the SECURE Water Act, the section 9508 that's particular to this program. It's four pages long and it's got a lot of information. I was trying to come up with a way to convey the most important things that Congress wanted us to do. And then my son came home, he's in third grade, and they did little wordles for their mommies and daddies. What they thought about us and I said, "Well that's really cool, "that's very sweet, thank you," but wouldn't it be interesting if I did that with SECURE, just to see what really popped out. And after you took words like 'the' and 'and' and 'secretary' out it was clear that congress was very concerned about water availability, future resources, working with states in order to do these assessments was very important, looking at both surface water and ground water, looking at water use, and with the realization that water availability is not just a quantity issue, it's not just a quality issue, and it's not just a demand issue, it's all three together. And then, sort of that in the last year as we've been really working through a lot of these planning activities, the presidential memo on Western water availability was released, and Section Three of that directs the U.S, well directs the Secretary of Interior and Commerce, and that essentially boils down to The Weather Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and USGS to write an action plan to improve the information and modeling capabilities associated with informing water availability and infrastructure. So this is probably burned in to your brains by now, you've seen it several times, and so through all of these activities, all of this planning, all of these strategies, and all of the directives really, the Water Mission Area has come up with these new four priorities. And I've started thinking about them a little bit differently, as we work to actually begin implementation of some of these, and so NWIS Modernization really is the backbone for what we're trying to do. And so, having that system set up and ready for us as we sort of work through implementation is gonna be critical. And NGWOS will provide all the high spatial and temporal data that we need to support our modern water prediction and provide the tools and information that stakeholders and resource managers need to actually make decisions. Water prediction is, in my eyes, I see it sort of as a two step process. One, going in to a basin and being able to do a pre-implementation gap analysis I think is a role for, essentially, what 2WP will become going in with NGWOS and saying, "Here's where we can improve our modeling "and here's the data that needs to be collected." And then coming in behind that, after that, and actually starting to do, all of the stuff that Katie talked about earlier. And then IWAAs builds on all of the things that we've heard about today. All of the data, information, and tools developed through NGWOS and 2WP, to provide an assessment of current and future water availability and we're going to do that in both the national and regional extent. I pulled this together as a way to try to illustrate how these things would work together in a basin, because, as Katie said, we're gonna move together across the country regionally with each of these priorities. And so, the first thing that we have to do is actually select that basin, we have to do the networks analysis that I just mentioned, identify the gaps, and we have to do stakeholder engagement, and the primary stakeholder engagement, in the beginning, will be for the implementation of the data collection. So, what data is gonna be collected? And while NGWOS is actually beginning to implement the data collection activities, IWAAs can come in and start engaging with the stakeholders and saying, "Okay, now lets really talk about "the types of tools and data, and resources that you need "to make water management decisions." And then we'll develop a work plan and we'll begin to implement in the basin. And then there's gonna be sort of this constant delivery of products, right? And we'll work to refine our process along the way. And as we finish up our assessments, as we sort of get to the end of the data collection, we'll do a full process evaluation, kind of a lessons learned, and we'll also be beginning the process in the next basin. And so I sort of see that as a cycle. In Mindi's mind, that's how it works. We'll see. So what are these Integrated Water Availability Assessments, or IWAAs? When we first started thinking about these we were thinking about them very specifically from a way to address the requirements that were outlined to us as part of SECURE. And that was, status and trends of our nation's water resources, and that's in terms of both quantity and quality. Developing national scale indicators of availability and developing and applying predictive tools. So when fully implemented, IWAAs will: evaluate current supply and demand of all quantity, quality, and use. So it's going to be integrated availability. Evaluate long-term trends, and that's of course inclusive of quantity, quality, and use. Eventually we'd like to get to the point where we can provide seasonal to decadal forecasts of availability and that would be working with The Weather Service and their seasonal to sub-seasonal predictions of precipitation. And then informing water resource decisions through development of socioeconomic tools. The IWAAs framework. We currently have a planning team that has been working on how these should actually be implemented. We're meeting at the end of the month to develop kind of our final document and then we'll work through a review process and hopefully get that released sometime later this summer for kind of more stakeholder review and feedback as well. But a couple of the things about IWAAs that we're going to be, I think fairly rigid about is this National and Regional consistency in how projects are developed. So for example, I'm gonna show you some interim or some preliminary deliverables that we already have for IWAAs. It's very important that what we're doing at the national scale can help to get us started on our regional assessments and that what we do regionally can help to inform and improve what we're doing nationally because, you know, the specific deliverable, the main kind of initial deliverable are these national assessments of availability. So, as I mentioned, we had the presidential memo that came out this year, directed us to develop an action plan for integrated assessments. And so, it really helped to kind of focus what we were doing in terms of IWAAs. And so this is now with CEQ at the White House, so it's been completed, it's been through commerce, it's been through the department and we are now on the hook to do these six things. The first thing that we're going to do is by the end of this calendar year we're going to produce an operational delivery of national availability. That's gonna be based on a single indice which we're still trying to identify what that is. If you guys have any feedback, please let us know. In '19 that's going to be quantity only and we're gonna do that through operationalizing the national hydrologic model. Eventually, when the framework and the tool it is 2WP is developed we will switch and will be using 2WP as our modeling framework. By 2020, we're going to incorporate quality into these assessments and then by 2021 we'll incorporate use. So those are all the national extent deliverables. Regionally we also have three deliverables. We're gonna start a pilot in the Delaware River Basin this year and I've got some more information on that in just a minute. By the end of 2020 we're gonna work with NGWAAs and the stakeholder groups to align our basins. So for the next, come up with the next ten basins. And then by 2021 we're gonna implement the full IWAAs in the basin in the west. And so, when NGWAAs selects its next basin by the end of this fiscal year we'll actually start working in that basin with stakeholders to develop a work plan for what that IWAAs will be and then we'll begin implementation of that in '21. So incorporating water quality. This is a table that I pulled out of one of our planning documents that we just drafted this week. So as you can see, we're fairly early in the planning. But I think a couple of things that are important to note is that, so this is one of the water quality issues that we should consider in terms of availability. It's important to note that everything in green here are the constituents that have been prioritized as part of the 2WP planning already. So we're not planning in a vacuum. A lot of the folks that are on our planning team are integrated with the 2W planning team and with NGWAAs. So we're doing this together, it's collaborative. We also have to incorporate water use. We're doing that currently through development of daily withdrawal models for three categories of use that make up 90% of the east nationally and that's thermoelectric, public supply, and irrigation. And we've been talking about IWAAs with stakeholders and congressionally for about the last year and I'm happy to report that there is some congressional interest in these assessments. So much so that they gave us a million dollars in cooperative matching funds this year to start them. And the one unfortunate thing is that we haven't quite finished our planning yet. So, we did get a million dollars from CMF. We ran a competitive process through our board of mission areas and selected 10 projects this year. Through that we prioritized starting the pilot in the Delaware River Basin because it's one of our initial deliverables. That pilot is gonna be made up of sort of four unique projects and those are, the first one is developing a daily public supply of withdrawal model in a sub basin of the Delaware. And of course then you'll understand the theme coming through these projects. That effort can help to inform what we're doing nationally in terms of our public supply withdrawal model. Another effort is developing drought indicies in the Delaware which can help inform what we're doing nationally with our delivery of availability. A third model is going to be comparing our national hydrologic model with a local, regional model that's already been developed. And using the results of those two to help inform what we're doing nationally as part of our operational delivery. And then the fourth is looking at four sub basins in the Delaware and water quality processes to help inform how we're going to include water quality as part of our modeling. We have a project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin that's looking at data delivery and visualization which will help inform how we're gonna do our data delivery at the end nationally. We have another pilot that we're gonna start in the Trinity River in Texas and that is gonna focus on endpoints, our decisions for flow and habitat for freshwater mussels. And then we have projects in the Fox-Wolf-Pesh- I can't say it, Basin in Wisconsin and also in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer. So a surface water and a groundwater model there and those are gonna be focused on water quality processes in our models as well. And finally, the Columbia River Basin and that's an effort to look at inclusion of groundwater into our modeling processes. I think there was one more thing I wanted to mention here and now I can't remember. Okay, so roughly that's where we stand right now with what we have going on. Oh, I know what I wanted to mention. These projects were all just selected last week. So they're in the midst right now of developing a full work plan and engaging their stakeholders and getting sort of those endpoint questions, especially in the Delaware and the Trinity River Basin, of what decisions those stakeholders are making on a daily basis in terms of availability and developing their work plan to help address those questions specifically. And that's a fairly quick overview. If anybody has any questions.

- [Man] You know, I'm intrigued by the one pager here in mention of economics. Could you just give us a sense of what that might look like?

- So for example, lets think about brackish resources. They're available but what is the cost to treat those to get 'em to the specific use category that you're interested in and is it, is that more feasible than, perhaps, turning to another resource for that use, would be one example. Another example would be thinking about infrastructure and availability in terms of infrastructure and looking at the, sort of the cost differential for the supply and demand.

- [Woman] I wanted to ask a little bit about the table where you had listed the different, with the water quality. And the ones that are in green I realized are moving ahead. The others aren't. They're still on lists so they're not off the lists but I wondered if you could say a little bit more, just even in, what the vision is for things that, contaminants of emerging concern because if the USDS is not looking at those nationally, then it might be because for decades So I wondered if you could talk about ones that aren't in green.

- So, first of all, the green is just essentially, you know, a sign of a prioritization? Second, I think that as part of our planning we have to, you know, think about what we can do next year, in terms of quality and get that done. A lot of these are gonna be driven regionally by what are the issues regionally in terms of availability and there's no prioritization regionally. Regionally it's going to be, you know, what are your issues and if it's, you know, if a contaminant of emerging concern is an issue in that basin then that's what we'll work to address. The other thing that I wanna mention is that in terms of a lot of these contaminants I've been thinking about them more in terms of a hazard. And so, exploring that in terms of developing hazards priority as well and looking at contaminants as a hazard nationally.

- [Man] So just to add on to that, the tiering that's shown there, the colors was done by the forecasting group. So really one of the criteria was can we develop forecasts for these constituents. And particularly, as Katie mentioned, it's on a short term basis so a lot of these reflect things that we can measure with continuing water quality sensors. They'll give us those continuous data streams. Some of the things like the organic contaminants, of course we're not gonna be able to do those using sensors until that lab ownership arrives later down the road. But I think again, a lot of the work that we do, also the co-op money that we get goes to our science centers and they do some of this work. We have statewide networks that kinda built like a California off the Nocqua model that are doing as much as or more than Nocqua was able to do on constituents. And then the toxics program, that's kind of a little bit of a question mark right now. If the restructuring goes through and it comes and it lands into these programs, there are gonna be some things that, Don says this often, we're not gonna stop doing everything we've done in the past and refocus everything on these new priorities. The things we do do have to kind of line up under there to make sense but, again, I don't think we're gonna just stop doing street water quality work. Congress is still and our stakeholders are interested . For fluorinated of course, compounds are the next contaminants du jour. We're trying to get caught up there and do some work. Whether we can afford to do a national assessment, that probably depends on congress coming in with more money.

- [Woman] Thank you, that's really helpful.

- [Man] So, I've got a couple questions all related to nutrients. But, I guess the first question is in the water subcabinet was Dave Ross's kind of real focus on nutrient management, how can you make a really big impact on . How is that EPA kind of focus driving USDS's focus on nutrient management on nitrogen phosphorus and understanding, so this is the second question, understanding how lag time, 'cause a lot of your reports are showing that the lows are going way down nationally currently but the trend data is not fond of it. So what qualities in understanding how those lows, why those lows are going down and how the nutrients behave in an environment with the understanding all of those things and how they contribute to your models.

- [Man] So I think nutrients is probably job one and it's something that Nocqua has focused on since the inception of the program and I think we're gonna be tackling that in much the same way as we have before. We're gonna continue to monitor for nutrients and document what the lows are and what the trends are over time and that'll be done as part of the IWAAs effort. But I think some of the questions you're getting at are really gonna be tackled more by the water prediction work program and building off of the models that we've already built. The nutrient models, the static models, like Sparrow from extrapolation and coupling, building dynamic working with Sparrow to bring in groundwater and other processes again. We've built some Sparrow models, we've done a fair good of work under Nocqua but we're on a team called the Integrative Watershed Team which was working with Chesapeake Bay program to build the models there and then take advantage of the data sets. And so we do have some reports, we actually have a circular coming out on 50 years, or long term predictions of nutrient impacts in the Bay based on pine casting back 50 years and extrapolating 50 years forward and based on some of these modeling efforts kinda making some broad statements about what might happen before. So I mean, we have a foundation there and it's gonna be built and expanded upon as part of the water prediction effort. Alright, well I wanna thank everybody, unless there's any more questions, for coming. We'll be in touch with you in the future about the fate of this committee. And hopefully future meetings where we can update you on all these new activities. Don't hesitate if you have further questions, reach out to me or I can get you in touch with any of the other speakers. We recorded these sessions, they'll be posted. We'll let the liaison committee folks who couldn't make it know. So, thanks again for your time. Have a good weekend.

- Thank you.