This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA's rich science and research profile.
Water is a precious resource and will become scarcer as the human population continues to grow. In many areas, climate change is expected to affect weather patterns. In general, the wetter areas are expected to get wetter and the drier areas are expected to get drier. This year, California’s drought has highlighted how important it is for land managers and producers to exercise best practices to increase water quality and quantity so there is enough to go around.
This year, USDA participated in the 7th Annual World Water Forum in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Every three years, the World Water Council hosts the Forum and develops the program in cooperation with the private sector, governments, industry, international governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic groups.
USDA’s booth was part of the larger USA Pavilion at the Forum, along with our colleagues from USAID, Department of Interior, State Department, the US Water Partnership, and several other government agencies, private companies, and universities. We showcased the latest science and technology research being done at the Agricultural Research Service, the tools and best practices developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service to improve water quality and quantity, and two of the web interfaces we manage or contribute to that help land managers and producers find the information they need about water: the Climate Resilience Toolkit (toolkit.climate.gov) and the Regional Climate Hubs website (climatehubs.oce.usda.gov).
We had such a diversity of visitors to our booth: from the mayor of a city in France, to university students, to industry representatives, to international delegations, to a retiree I had a really good conversation with about the history of American science. As I shared information loaded with the best USDA has to offer in water tools and practices, the first question many of them asked was whether the tools are free. Yes! And though some of the tools are examples that are specific to agriculture and ecosystems in the United States, the cutting edge ideas coming out of our agencies can still set an example for what is possible elsewhere. We were excited to participate in the World Water Forum and share.
If you would like to check out some of our water tools, see a sample list below:
For Croplands and Livestock Operations:
- Nitrogen Trading Tool (NTT): Facilitates water quality credit training. http://nrrc.ars.usda.gov/nttwebax/
- Water Quality Index for Runoff Water from Agricultural Fields (WQIag): Tool that combines multiple water quality parameters to calculate a single value to indicate quality. http://wqiag.sc.egov.usda.gov/
- Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender: Model that evaluates the effects of land management strategies considering erosion, water supply and water quality, among other factors: http://apex.tamu.edu/
- Soil and Water Assessment Tool: Small watershed to river basin-scale model to simulate the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater and predict impact of change in land use, land management, and climate. http://swat.tamu.edu/
- Agricultural Non-Point Source Pollution Model: Tool for evaluating the effect of management decisions impacting water, sediment and chemical loadings within a watershed system. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull//?cid=stelprdb1042468
Resources and Guides:
- A Procedure to Estimate the Response of Aquatic Systems to Changes in Phosphorous and Nitrogen Inputs: A tool to estimate water body sensitivity to nutrients and make management recommendations. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1044774.pdf
- Stream Visual Assessment Protocol: Procedure to evaluate the condition of a stream based on visual characteristics. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1044776.pdf
- National Water Quality Handbook: Definitive USDA resource for Water quality technical information, guidance and procedures. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1044775.pdf
For Forests and Watersheds:
- Fish Crossing: Tool for designing culverts for fish passages. http://www.stream.fs.fed.us/fishxing/
- NorWest Stream Temp: Measured and forecasted stream temperature data for the US Pacific Northwest. http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/boise/AWAE/projects/NorWeST.html
- Waters Supply Stress Index: Model to project effects of forest land cover change, climate change and water withdrawals on river flows, water supply stress, and ecosystem productivity. http://www.forestthreats.org/research/tools/WaSSI
- Watershed Erosion Prediction Project: Model to estimate erosion and sediment processes on hillslopes and small watersheds based on climate, land use, disturbances, vegetation and soil processes. http://forest.moscowfsl.wsu.edu/fswepp/
- Watershed Condition Classification Map: An interactive map of watershed condition for all National Forest System Watersheds. http://apps.fs.usda.gov/WCFmapviewer/
Resources and Guides:
- Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems- Level I Inventory Field Guide: A national protocol to supply standardized data used in project identification and planning. http://www.fs.fed.us/geology/GDE_Level_I_FG_final_March2012_rev1_s.pdf
- Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems- Level II Inventory Field Guide: A more detailed national protocol to supply standardized data used in project identification and planning. http://www.fs.fed.us/geology/GDE_Level_II_FG_final_March2012_rev1_s.pdf
- Watershed Condition Classification Technical Guide: Nationally consistent, science-based approach to classifying the condition of all National Forest System Watersheds. http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/watershed/watershed_classification_guide.pdf
- Water, Climate Change and Forests: A report on effects of and responses to climate change’s impacts on watersheds. www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr812.pdf
- Technical Guide to Managing Groundwater Resources: Guidance for implementing national groundwater policy; describes hydrological, geological, and ecological concepts as well as managerial responsibilities for National Forest Service land. http://www.fs.fed.us/biology/resources/pubs/watershed/groundwater/ground_water_technical_guide_fs-881_march2007.pdf
- National Best Management Practices for Water Quality Management on National Forest System Lands: Standardized BMP’s to improve water quality, relations with other government and non-governmental entities, monitor management results, and improve compliance with laws. http://www.fs.fed.us/biology/resources/pubs/watershed/FS_National_Core_BMPs_April2012.pdf