Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources

Research Successes

What's in Your Water Besides H2O and Why?

Comprehensive water resource studies, dependent on the long-term national infrastructure provided by U.S. Government scientists, provide the credible assessments necessary for reasoned debates over water resource development, regulation, and protection. Equally comprehensive and credible research cannot be accomplished by individual entities such as states or universities.

For example, anecdotal information in the mid-1980s indicated that groundwaters in the midwest might be widely contaminated by certain herbicides from nonpoint sources, suggesting the need to undertake extensive monitoring and ban many useful agricultural chemicals. The federal scientists took groundwater samples from shallow wells under corn and soybean fields across 12 midwestern states and found none that exceeded health advisory levels for herbicides in drinking water. These results not only calmed unwarranted fears but also saved substantial monitoring costs for the state agencies responsible for protecting public water supplies.

The investigation demonstrated that in many midwestern states herbicide contamination of groundwater is a seasonal problem and that expensive water treatment and monitoring can be reduced greatly for eight months of the year. The investigation also showed that herbicide concentrations in reservoirs remain relatively high throughout the year. States such as Kansas have used this information to target their efforts to control herbicide use in specific high-risk watersheds

Satellite Eyes Land-Use Change

Data bases, unimaginable only a decade ago, are allowing researchers and resource managers to study regional land cover and to detect change over large areas. A new Federal Coastal Change Analysis Program is combining satellite imagery, aerial photography, and field data into large data bases that enable scientists to monitor and analyze a wide range of environmental issues. These geographic information systems are valuable tools to effectively monitor coastal habitat changes and to understand some of their biological consequences.

Scientific monitoring, research, and analysis have recently helped lead to an unprecedented consensus of all stakeholders concerning the need to restore the south Florida ecosystem. The restoration efforts address the complexity of the system and will require reconfiguration of canals to return the flow of water essential to the functioning of the Everglades ecosystem. Remote sensing tools, such as those used for land cover and change detection, are being used to facilitate the reconfiguration effort. They also will be used to evaluate the success of management actions by linking actions conducted upstream to responses downstream and in the ocean. These efforts are drawing federal, state, and local stakeholders together in a united effort to achieve scientifically sound management practices for south Florida's unique ecosystem.