Regional Water Resources: Adaptive Approaches to Policy and Management Of Groundwater, Surface Water and Response to Flood/Drought Cycles

Gary M. Hanson, Hydrologist in Residence, Director, Red River Watershed Management Institute, Louisiana State University Shreveport, One University Place, Shreveport, LA, 71115, hansongm@att.net

As humans we have learned to control, to a degree, and make beneficial use of water in the built environment. In doing so, we have stressed natural water systems by adapting to our needs, whether as sources of drinking water, supporting growth of food sources, power generation, transportation, removing wastes, providing recreation or esthetic value. Maintaining sustainable ecosystems has not been a priority. The public rarely shows interest in water, unless a shortage occurs (droughts/contamination) or it becomes too abundant (floods that pose risk to lives or property). The latter, occurs typically as short duration and infrequent events. When these water related issues arise, multi-level government agencies need locally based watershed management resources to address these problems. Buy embedding a watershed management entity in a regional university, it can serve to educate university students, faculty, governing bodies, K-12 teachers/students and service the public through outreach activities. The Red River Watershed Management Institute (RRWMI) at LSU Shreveport has established water resource related courses and has become a regional resource to aid local, regional and state entities in planning and decision making as it relates to groundwater and surface water resources. By utilizing adaptive management approaches and strategies, the Institute’s goal has been to foster and aid in developing water resource resilience. Effective local participation is essential for the development of solutions that are multidisciplinary in nature. A catalyst is needed to facilitate multilevel interactions among local, regional and state agencies. Left alone natural systems tend to operate efficiently and effectively. Efforts to modify these systems typically result in undue stress such as overdrafting of groundwater, inundating reservoirs with excessive nutrients or changes to a river system for navigation without considering the unintended consequences of excessive sedimentation, invasive species and increasing the risk of flooding. Presence is important, but so is time. For it is only over time that natural systems present the multitude of responses that inflict challenges, and in some cases disasters, to the built environment. Having a watershed institute to facility non-statutory working groups and technical committees, is vital in addressing emerging stressors such as the oil and gas industry moving into the region to extract natural gas by conducting large scale hydraulic fracturing, extended droughts and unprecedented flooding of residential developments and agricultural lands. RRWMI has brought together local parish/city governments, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S, Geological Survey, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and responsible industry representatives that have worked together in a transparent manner to provide the needed resources and buy in to address these complicated and evolving water related issues.

Key words: Watershed, groundwater, surface water, water resources, droughts

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