NAS-NRC Calls for New Water Research

NAS-NRC Calls for New Water Research

The U.S. needs to make a new commitment to research on water resources in order to confront the increasingly severe water problems faced across the nation, according to a new report from the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. In particular, the U.S. needs a new mechanism to coordinate water research currently fragmented among nearly 20 federal agencies.

Both federal agencies and the states have tended to focus on short-term research likely to yield more immediate results, but it is long-term basic research that will provide a solid foundation for applied science a decade from now. Committee chair Henry J. Vaux of the University of California at Berkeley argued that, “decision makers at all levels of government area going to have to make difficult choices in the coming decades about how to allot limited water supplies, and they need sound science to back them up.”

The panel urged the U.S. to dedicate an extra $70 million a year to water research, with the aim of improving the decision making of institutions that control water resources and better understanding of the water use challenges that lie ahead. Overall funding for water research has been stagnant in real terms for the past 30 years, but per capita spending on water resources research has actually fallen, from $3.33 to $2.44 despite the growing number of water use conflicts. The panel recommended that a new entity be created to coordinate water research at the national level, whether it be an existing interagency body, a neutral organization authorized by Congress, or a public-private group led by the Office of Management and Budget. Or they could just turn the job over to the Texas Water Development Board.

In other NAS news, Ralph J. Cicerone, chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, has been nominated to be the next president of the National Academy of Sciences. Cicerone in 2001 chaired the landmark study, “Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions,” conducted at the request of the White House. Cicerone, at atmospheric chemist, has conducted research on the plasma physics of the earth’s ionosphere, the chemistry of the ozone layer, radiative forcing of climate change, and sources of atmospheric methane and methyl halide gases.

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