Updated July 5, 2000
Principles of hydrology have been developed and applied in water resources management from ancient times, and distinguished engineers and scientists, largely identified with different disciplines, have been working to gain better understanding of hydrologic processes for more than a century. Yet, the study of hydrology was not defined as a distinct, interdisciplinary Geoscience until the National Research Council in 1991 prepared the intellectual framework provided in a report entitled "Opportunities in Hydrologic Sciences". Publication of this report led to the establishment of a designated funding program in hydrologic science in 1992 at NSF within the Division of Earth Sciences, Directorate of Geosciences.
We are now in the process of planning to move ahead. Our progress will depend on having a long-term plan developed through consensus building among researchers in academia and government on goals and milestones toward achieving them. It will be enhanced by generating support from stakeholders who can use a better understanding of hydrologic principles to become more effective in meeting their needs for water resources management and water quality protection. This web site is a forum for the discussions needed in consensus building.
The planning presented here began in 1998 as part of a ten-year Geoscience directorate planning initiative called 'GEO-2000'. However, the scope of the needed comprehensive interdisciplinary Hydrologic Science Program is broader than Geosciences. It must involve continued intellectual interaction with many other disciplines to address important related issues in engineering, mathematics, physics, ecology, geochemistry, geography, microbiology, and the social sciences. At NSF, many of the needed supporting programs are housed within other directorates than Geosciences. Needed unifying umbrellas appear under such headings as Global Change, Environmental Grand Challenges, and Biocomplexity.
The work presented here has grown out of a workshop held in Albuquerque from January 31 to February 1, 1999. This two-day meeting could not explore all the many important issues in any depth, but the exercise proved to be an inspiration that got large numbers of people thinking. In order to give an identity to this process, the participants defined an acronym as a point of reference. They chose the scientific pursuit of a quantitative understanding of Water cycle interactions with the entire Earth system and Biota, called WEB. The extensive interdisciplinary deliberations needed to define WEB and make recommendations for its implementation have now been on going for a year and a half. This is not the sort of activity that will ever reach an end. It must become a living activity, a continuing intellectual discourse, to succeed.
We are greatly indebted to the many people who have worked hard in bringing WEB to this point. A list of principal contributors is compiled under Contributors. WEB is also indebted to the many people active in other parts of the larger planning effort to advance water-related research and education currently underway. Additional information on nine principal efforts is given under Current Research Planning Efforts. The researchers involved in planning WEB found that major science issues at the watershed and larger scales are not being resolved by work within the current research structure. The modality for conducting water research is not able to make substantial progress in adding the understanding needed to address pressing national needs for water resources management. Three major deficiencies urgently need attention:
- Consistent support for the continued large-scale interdisciplinary studies needed to make substantial progress.
- Educational programs producing people adequately trained in the breadth of water science needed to focus capabilities from multiple disciplines on current science issues.
- A National Facility capable of consistently deploying cutting-edge instrumentation and synthesizing and archiving essential data sets at watershed and larger scales for research and educational use.
The 40-page document articulating this case, "A framework for reassessment of basic research and educational priorities in hydrologic sciences" is written to stimulate ideas that the community can use to overcome these three major areas of deficiency. A continuing effort will be needed to find solutions, whether by implementing the recommendations made here or by some other means.
We offer this report as a challenge to scientists and engineers with an interest in hydrology to reflect on where we are, coalesce in support of the needed leadership, and institutionalize an effective framework for moving forward. We want your comments on the logic of the presentation, the wisdom of actions posed, and details of the science. Send ideas for discussion by the community at large to email@example.com for posting on this web page. Comments can be seen on postings. In addition, the NSF will solicit assessments from a small set of colleagues to add to the breadth and depth of the discussion. Resulting statements will also be added to Review Assessments. Widespread community participation is essential, so please contribute.
Note - Vijay Gupta (WEB Chair) and his Working Group have devoted many long, hard hours into nurturing WEB to this point. We can quibble about the details of the science, or the structure of the actions, but the major themes are coming forth too consistently from too many sources to leave room for doubt as to their validity. The development of WEB under their guidance has now passed the point of what can be done by ad hoc volunteers. It needs appropriate level of funds to make progress, because the present level of funding is totally inadequate. To get more funds, we need a specific compelling intellectual plan for using those funds. To execute the plan, we need leaders who will put their time and energy into achieving success. Comments more specifically directed to these aspects of program management should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The goal is to identify people from the full range of disciplines from science and engineering who can actively participate in preparing a 'WEB group proposal' that attracts funding and performs to contribute to the development of WEB.