2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM

Scientifically Based, National-Scale Water-Quality Assessment—Jacob Rubin's Vision

HIRSCH, Robert M., U.S. Geol Survey, 409 National Center, USGS, Reston, VA 20192, rhirsch@usgs.gov

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) committee, organized in 1983 and headed by Jacob Rubin, outlined the principles for what would become the flagship National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The work of this committee directly responded to requests from the U.S. Congress that the USGS find an approach to answering basic questions about the Nation's efforts to improve water quality. Most fundamental among these questions was: “Is water quality getting better or worse?” The committee's charge was to develop principles for an unprecedented (and, some argued, infeasible) effort to acquire and interpret water-quality data that would provide broadly meaningful information about the status and trends in water quality at regional and National scales. The design built on the strengths of existing individual local to regional studies as well as existing process-oriented research, and hinged on the union of specific spatial and temporal scales. The spatial scale was that of large watersheds and their associated ground-water systems, typically covering tens of thousands of square kilometers. The time scale was primarily decadal. The committee proposed that insights about water quality, which would be of considerable scientific and practical value to resource managers, policy makers, and the public as a whole, could best be obtained by examining water quality at these scales and then aggregating the results through time across the entire Nation. The USGS, Department of the Interior, and Congress endorsed and funded the plan that Jacob's committee laid out. Through the highly-successful NAWQA Program, Jacob Rubin's vision has substantially contributed to water science and informed water policy for the past twenty years.