Consensus Report

Future Water Priorities for the Nation: Directions for the U.S. Geological Survey Water Mission Area (2018)

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Increasing pressure from growing populations, climate change, extreme weather, and aging water-related infrastructure threaten water availability and quality in the United States and abroad. As a result, research to help inform decision-making related to the management and use of water resources will be of paramount importance in coming decades.

The Water Mission Area (WMA) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a long-established reputation for collecting and delivering high-quality, unbiased scientific information related to the nation’s water resources. At the request of the USGS, this report identifies the nation’s highest-priority water science and resources challenges over the next 25 years, summarizes WMA's current water science and research portfolio, and recommends strategic opportunities for WMA to more effectively address the most pressing challenges.

Challenges identified include understanding the role of water in the Earth system, quantifying the water cycle, developing integrated modeling, quantifying change in the socio-hydrological system, securing reliable and sustainable water supplies, and understanding and predicting water-related hazards. High-priority questions that need to be answered cover the quality, quantity, and spatial and temporal variability of atmospheric, surface, and subsurface water; the impact of human activities; comprehensive water accounting; effects of climate change; and long-term water-related risk management.

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