AWRA Policy Statements
Organizing and Managing Water Resources in a Hydrologic Context
Policy Statement: The American Water Resources Association recommends that water resources management goals, policies and rules be integrated at hydrologic scales using physical hydrologic features (i.e., basins, watersheds, or aquifer systems). By following the boundaries that hydrology sets before us and engaging multiple disciplines and water management sectors, policymakers can encourage policies and collaborations at all levels of government. Promoting hydrologic system-based planning and management is the surest way to achieve water resource sustainability.
Issue: John Wesley Powell, surveyor of the American West, argued
that people settle the land in communities "linked by their common
watercourse" and that communities should, therefore, be defined
by those hydrologic boundaries.
A successful management strategy must take an integrated approach,
recognizing that water is inextricably tied to other systems that are
already part of the built and natural environment, such as energy generation,
land use, and economic development. Even within the world of water,
there are various issues-water quality, water quantity, groundwater,
surface water, and ecosystem/habitat needs that require closer collaboration
than we see today.
Policymakers have a responsibility to encourage these entities to coordinate their efforts as part of a place-based approach, and should provide strong leadership in this approach.
Rationale: Although local governments routinely make decisions of great importance to the health of basins, watersheds and aquifers, decision-making could be improved by focusing the policies and programs of governments at all levels on these hydrologic units. When basins, watersheds and aquifers become the common focus, local, state, tribal and federal governments and their partners are more likely to succeed in garnering the resources, information, science and management commitments that stewardship requires. Place-based approaches are crucial for addressing both traditional water resource issues, such as flood- and drought-risk management, as well as emerging ones, such as climate change. They likewise are a key to understanding the storage and movement of water between surface waters, groundwater, snowpack, and other elements of the hydrologic cycle, which often are not adequately reflected in our governance structures and systems.
If you have questions about any of the above policy statements, please feel free to contact AWRA.