BESR/WSTB Joint Board Meeting - Fall '19Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
Keck Center of the National Academies
500 Fifth St. NW Washington DC 20001
Large river basins provide water, land, and other natural and cultural resources essential to the livelihood, health, and economic growth of communities, governments, and industry. In the United States, every major river basin system, including land, surface and groundwater, and ecosystems, is heavily used and engineered for a variety of purposes such as flood control, water storage and supply, energy development, transportation, irrigation, housing, and recreation. An added component to the natural and engineered aspects of river basins is a governance system represented by a spectrum of historical authorizations, court decisions, treaties, water settlements, legal requirements, and different roles and responsibilities for water management authorities and other stakeholders.
Over the past century, human management and use of large river basins have fundamentally altered the morphology and recharge in river basins and have substantially altered their natural and engineered functions. More recently, more extreme weather patterns are stressing the capability of existing infrastructure to manage flood control and water supply while maintaining other valued functions and habitats.
The future functioning of vital river basins and their resources depends on using knowledge and understanding of the integrated, natural components of a river basin system, including its geomorphology and geology, surface- and groundwater systems, aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and seasonal and long-term weather patterns, to support informed use, engineering, and governance decisions.
Using the examples of the Rio Grande and Mississippi River basins, this meeting will address several overarching themes related to the future of large river basins and their management in the U.S.:
- What are the valued services (e.g., water supply for X people; flood control for X people; transportation, riparian and aquatic habitat, etc.) provided by this river and its water management infrastructure?
- Describe the interconnected hydrologic, geomorphologic and physical, and biotic systems that support these services in the river basin at different scales; how have use and engineering (dams, levees, commercial and residential infrastructure development) cumulatively impacted the natural flow and recharge of the rivers and river ecosystems?
- Where are the greatest challenges for water management to meet the multiple system objectives under current conditions vs. under more extreme weather patterns?
- What monitoring, data, modeling, and analysis are used or are needed for optimizing river basin management?
- What are the existing frameworks for coordination and integration of management approaches in the river basin and what additional strategies may be needed?