Federal priorities and programs in the hydrological sciences



How high a priority is hydrologic research for U.S. federal agencies? Although hydrology affects human lives and economic activity significantly, federal agency research priorities ultimately reflect the ability of the research community to generate political support, both locally and nationally. Unless the research community cultivates a vocal constituency by demonstrating the practical benefits of hydrologic research products, we risk declining federal support as other scientific disciplines step forward to direct federal agency priorities. Also, several hydrology programs require immediate mobilization of support to prevent losses in research capabilities. These were the conclusions of panel members participating in a uniquely frank “Town Hall Meeting” of the Hydrology Section at the 1998 AGU Fall Meeting. Agency representatives attending included Ghassem R. Asrar, NASA Associate Administrator for Earth Science; D.James Baker, NOAA Administrator; Robert M. Hirsch, Director of the USGS Water Resources Division; and George M. Hornberger, Chair of the National Research Council (NRC) Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources (CGER).