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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 99-249--Contents page


This document articulates what the authors hope will become a shared vision of the future directions for the water-resources activities of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the years 1998-2008. The word "shared" is critical here for three reasons. First, the vision must be shared among the leadership and all employees of the Water Resources Division (WRD). WRD has a highly distributed workforce and a management structure that delegates major responsibility for program development and for scientific, fiscal, and workforce management to field-based units. If we are to move in new directions, headquarters leaders, field-based leaders, and the entire workforce must be involved in the process of setting the directions and must fully understand and support them.

Second, we want to make sure that the vision is shared across the whole of the USGS. We believe that the future success of the USGS in fulfilling its mission depends on drawing on the strengths of all divisions to fulfill the Nation's needs for information on issues of hazards, environment, and resources. Biologic, geologic, and mapping expertise must be brought to bear on water-resource issues, and conversely, we should bring our hydrologic expertise to bear on the mission needs of those programs.

Finally, our hope is to present a vision that can be shared by the wide range of our stakeholders--the potential and current customers, partners, and users of the water information we produce. Stakeholder views were represented in setting our strategic vision through participation of WRD managers who interact with these stakeholders on a regular basis. We got more direct input during the review process when this draft document was presented to a wide range of outside entities for review and comment. Through this process we got their reactions and heard their concerns and (or) agreement and made modifications to incorporate their views about the USGS and about the future. It is our hope that this document is as much their vision as it is ours.

What are some of the major thoughts that define our strategic directions?

We believe that WRD is a strong and healthy organization. We have a talented and motivated workforce that is able to address a wide range of important issues. Water is vital to the Nation; thus, there will continue to be significant demands for the kind of information we produce.

We have made major changes in what we do and how we do it in recent years. We will continue to make major changes in the years to come. Examples of recent innovations include--

We come to this process of charting our strategic direction with a view that we are a strong and resilient organization, doing highly relevant work. It is important, however, not to be complacent. The planning process was designed to get us to take stock, to look around at the world in which we operate today and the changes we might expect in the next few years. We see real challenges. The role of government at all levels is questioned by some, and funding has not matched inflation in recent years. As a result, we have had to reduce the level of our programs. We also need to clarify the role of WRD in a time when the private sector has greater skills in hydrology than ever before.

We believe we have strengths that will allow us to meet the challenges.

  1. The first strength is our people with their motivation, skill, and the broad and deep scientific and technical knowledge that they embody from many years of experience and education.
  2. Our infrastructure of monitoring capabilities and instruments, data bases, models, standards, and special purpose facilities for chemical analysis and field instrumentation serves as a solid base for future work.
  3. We are part of the USGS, a strong scientific organization with the capability to address a broad range of natural science issues that involve hazards, resources, and environment. Our ability to collaborate with our colleagues in the Geologic Division, the Biological Resources Division, and the National Mapping Division gives us strength through the breadth of capabilities present in the USGS.
  4. We have strong and growing opportunities for collaboration with other Federal Agencies, most notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; with the resource-management agencies in the U.S. Department of the Interior; and with the academic community, especially through the Water Resources Research Institutes.
  5. The many customers and partners--whose numbers and fiscal contributions to WRD continue to grow even during this time of general downsizing of government--are an important source of strength.

This strategic planning document sets forth where we want to be in 10 years. Our intent in preparing it was to make sure that we capitalize on our existing strengths to be even more successful 10 years from now than we are today. We believe that this document contains ambitious goals that will cause all of us to reach beyond and exceed our expectations. The document is not a detailed implementation plan. Attaining the goals set forward will come about through internal planning efforts, working with others to find resources to achieve some of the goals, and making the right choices about what new activities to begin when old activities end. Even before this document was completed the strategic planning process had many impacts on decisions that division leadership made regarding staffing issues, program priorities, and scientific and technological investments. For each of the directions and activities described here, we will continue to draw heavily on the good ideas of teams of our employees to help us prepare implementation plans that will describe the exact path to our future.

Robert M. Hirsch (signed)



Elizabeth Fellows, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Debra Knopman, Progressive Foundation; and Stephen Parker, National Research Council, helped the planning team to think about factors that could affect water resources in the United States and the world in the future. An early draft of the document was read and critiqued by WRD employees: Jeffrey Armbruster, Jerad Bales, Robert Boulger, Michael Dettinger, Warren Gebert, Dennis Lynch, Donna Myers, Donald Thorstenson, and Deborah Weldon. This team's thoughtful review resulted in modification of both content and style to make the messages of the document clearer to readers. Jo Ann Macy improved the clarity and readability of the document through careful editing.

During the review process, we received specific comments on the document from over 200 individuals from within the USGS and from external stakeholders. We thank each of them for taking the time to read the document and to share their perspectives. This final version of the document has been much improved by their thoughtful comments.

The WRD Strategic Directions Team included:

Robert M. Hirsch David J. Lystrom
William M. Alley Gail E. Mallard
Mary Jo Baedecker Wanda C. Meeks
William J. Carswell, Jr. Timothy L. Miller
T. John Conomos Brian R. Mrazik
John E. Costa James G. Peters
John N. Fischer David A. Rickert
Timothy W. Hale Verne R. Schneider
Catherine L. Hill Lewis V. Wade
William F. Horak, Jr. Janice R. Ward
Samuel N. Luoma Thomas H. Yorke, Jr.



U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 99-249--Contents page