Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

A Water and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) Network of hydrologic observatories has been proposed through the National Science Foundation to support research that could help address society's water management challenges (e.g., water quality, flood forecasting). The network, as envisioned, would include sensors at diverse sites across the United States and would enable the collection, analysis, and integration of hydrological, environmental science and engineering, and social science data at a level that has not been possible before. At the National Science Foundation's request, the National Research Council evaluated the project's Science Plan, which identifies the broad research questions that would be the foundation of the Network. This letter report finds that the Science Plan successfully communicates a high-level vision for transforming water science and engineering research through the WATERS Network, and it identifies high-level research questions that will set a foundation for second-level research. The report questions, however, whether the WATERS Network meets criteria for its proposed funding source and suggests approaches for resolving this concern.