Policy Statement

Criticality of Science to Water Resources Management

Approved by the Board of Directors of the American Water Resources Association at its January 12, 2019 meeting.

Policy Statement
Fully-informed water management decisions are vital to communities across the United States who are dealing with flood, drought, water supply, and water contamination issues every day.  Scientific data and studies provide the bedrock foundation of these decisions.  It is essential that water managers, planners, researchers, and decision-makers at all levels use evidence-based science as they craft policies and make decisions about water resources.  Due to the criticality of science to water resources management, AWRA calls on public agencies, private businesses, and non-profit organizations to support, utilize, and invest in water resources science.

Humans manage water simultaneously for economic development, human health and safety, security, and environmental protection.  We have a responsibility to understand the current and future condition of our water resources.  This includes the form and timing of precipitation, the amount of streamflow, the location and volume of groundwater, the quality of the water, and overall accessibility to communities, fish, and wildlife.

What does science tell us?
Understanding the frequency, duration, and severity of storms and floods helps communities design roads, bridges, transmission pipes, treatment plants, and other infrastructure to be resilient and continue to serve customers in extreme events, and to protect aquatic species and ecosystems.

Understanding the hot and dry effects of multi-year drought helps water providers, emergency managers, fire agencies, fish and wildlife agencies, and public health agencies position supplies, build back-up systems, and plan for a lack of water.

Understanding the sources and types of potential water contamination equips state and local governments, land managers, businesses, recreation seekers, and other citizens with the information necessary to protect their communities and the environment by testing, treating, and protecting water for its intended uses.

What does science involve?
  • identifying key questions, developing hypotheses, and gathering information to test their validity;
  • collecting and analyzing data;
  • improving statistical and analytical models;
  • documenting methods so studies can be replicated by other researchers;
  • training the next generation of technicians, programmers, mathematicians, natural scientists, social scientists, and engineers;
  • engaging in scientific collaboration;
  • ensuring robust peer-review; and
  • communicating findings effectively to multiple audiences.

Effective management of water requires a sound, scientific understanding of resource conditions and processes.  This understanding can be achieved only through continually investing in scientific research and data collection, using partnerships among researchers, planners and water managers.  Without scientific information, communities, business leaders, and governments at all levels will be unable to make sound decisions about water resources risks and opportunities.  Support for scientific research and data collection that informs water resources management is essential to the Nation’s well-being, including every region, state and community.  AWRA calls on public agencies, private businesses, and non-profit organizations to support, utilize, and invest in water resources science.

If you have questions about any of our policy statements, please contact AWRA.


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