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New national research effort needed to secure clean, adequate water supply in coming decades

WASHINGTON -- The United States needs to make a new commitment to research on water resources in order to confront the increasingly severe water problems faced by all parts of the country, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies' National Research Council. In particular, a new mechanism is needed to coordinate water research currently fragmented among nearly 20 federal agencies, said the committee that wrote the report.

"Water crises are not confined to western states," said committee chair Henry J. Vaux, professor emeritus and associate vice president emeritus, department of agricultural and resource economics, University of California, Berkeley. He cited as an example the recent conflict between Maryland and Virginia over Potomac River water rights that had to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. To be sure, semiarid western states are still in need of new water supplies for fast-growing populations, a problem that has been complicated by recent drought. And regulation of water levels and flows in the Klamath and Missouri rivers have sparked considerable debate as well. "Decision-makers at all levels of government are 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," Vaux added.

Given the competition for water among farmers, environmental advocates, recreational users, and other interests -- as well as emerging challenges such as climate change and the threat of waterborne diseases -- the committee concluded that an additional $70 million in federal funding should go annually to water research, with the aim of improving the decision-making of institutions that control water resources and better understanding the water-use challenges that lie ahead. The committee noted that overall federal funding for water research has been stagnant in real terms for the past 30 years, and that the portion dedicated to research
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Contact: William Kearney
NEWS@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
17-Jun-2004


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