Richard Niswonger is a Research Hydrologist with the USGS Water Resources Mission Area.
Our research aims to understand local and regional water resources to support water management decisions. We develop models that simulate natural hydrologic processes and human water use in eight major categories: thermoelectric power plants, irrigation, public supply, industry, mining, self-supplied domestic, livestock, and aquaculture. The USGS Water Use Program historically provided 5-year county and state-based water use estimates. Moving forward, the USGS Water Use Program will provide monthly water use estimates at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 12-digit Watershed Boundary Dataset (HUC12) resolution on an annual basis.
My role as the national water use research manager is to support the development of nationally consistent models with three key features: automated data retrieval, monthly simulation at the USGS 12-digit Watershed Boundary Dataset (HUC12) resolution, and periodic updating for current and forecasted results. These models help identify data gaps, improve data collection, and enhance water use predictions. They enable frequent reporting, synthesis, and interpretation of data, transforming the USGS's water use compilation into a continuous information accumulation process.
The national water use model also supports other USGS programs, including the National Water Census, which is a research program focused on national water availability and use. It develops water accounting tools and assesses water availability at regional and national scales. The National Water Census is one of the six major science directions outlined in the USGS's 2007 Science Plan. It is mandated by the SECURE Water Act and implemented through the Department of the Interior WaterSMART initiative.