Water Research Is Woefully Underfunded

While we don’t have a smart grid for electricity in place yet, there’s already talks that we need a smart grid for water. Implementing a smarter system that could monitor water usage would save the the US as much as 30% to 50% of its water used each year, estimates Mark Modzelewski, executive director of the Water Innovations Alliance. That’s just one estimate, of course. To get a better picture of how to alleviate water problems, more research needs to be done:

EE News: Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, said a national census with data on national water resources and use is urgently needed. He suggested the work be done by the U.S. Geological Survey via a minimum $25 million allocation every 10 years.

Water expert and University of California-Berkeley professor emeritus Henry Vaux also pointed out that funding for water resources research has remained static since the mid-1970s if inflation is taken into consideration. Today the annual federal investment in water resources research is about $700 million.

Vaux said that population growth, the expansion of irrigated agriculture and the need to protect the environment would continue to cut into the nation’s dwindling water supplies over the next century. Though he said current funding for water programs is not necessarily inadequate, Vaux noted that it lacks coordination. He added that there is little information about national priorities for water research and limited guidance about an appropriate balance among research elements.

Given these problems, Vaux praised Gordon’s bill, H.R. 1145, which attempts to address concerns raised in the 2004 National Academies report on federal water research. That study also suggested the United States is not using research dollars efficiently given a lack of coordination among agencies.

The bill would codify and authorise funds for an existing interagency Water Availability and Quality Subcommittee, which is run through the National Science and Technology Council. The subcommittee was originally established by the Bush administration in 2003.

The legislation would establish a national water initiative outreach office to support the interagency committee and serve as a point of contact on federal water activities for government agencies, organisations, academia and industry to exchange information. The office would be funded by contributions from each agency represented on the committee.

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