The USDA-ARS Experimental Watershed Network – Evolution and Lessons Learned

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:55 PM
David C Goodrich1, Phil Heilman1, Mary Nichols1, Susan M Moran1, Jean Steiner2, John Sadler3 and Mark R Walbridge4, (1)Agricultural Research Service Tucson, Tucson, AZ, United States, (2)USDA-ARS, El Reno, OK, United States, (3)USDA-ARS, Columbia, MO, United States, (4)Agricultural Research Service Beltsville, Office of National Programs, Beltsville, MD, United States
The USDA – Agricultural Research Service’s Experimental Watershed Network grew from dust bowl era efforts of the Soil Conservation Service in 1935 which established field scale watersheds in three states. In the mid-50’s five watershed centers with intensively instrumented watersheds at the scale of 100 to 700 km2 were established. Primary network research objectives were to quantify the downstream effects of conservation practices and accumulate rainfall-runoff observations for design of water conservation structures. ARS has operated over 600 watersheds in its history and continues operate roughly 100 watersheds, many of which are nested. With passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 research and instrumentation evolved to add a variety of observations relevant to water quality issues that varied regionally. The intensive, long-term measurements and observations have led to an extensive process-based understanding of watershed behavior encompassing a diverse range of hydrologic and ecosystem dynamics. Many of the intensively monitored ARS watersheds have, and continue to serve as validation sites for aircraft and satellite based remotely sensed instruments. Recently, many of the ARS Experimental Watershed have become part of the Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research Network (LTAR). This presentation will review major activities and advances derived from the network in addition to lessons learned in the long-term operation of a national scale network through its evolution from analog to digital instrumentation and internet accessibility.