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The Nature Conservancy Scientists & USACE IWR Director Co-Author Editorial in ASCE Journal

Published July 12, 2011
EWRI logo and Cover of Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management

ALEXANDRIA, VA – July 12, 2011. Two scientists from The Nature Conservancy (Conservancy), Andy Warner and Jeff Opperman of Conservancy's Global Freshwater Program, co-authored an Editorial with IWR Director Bob Pietrowsky that was published in the July-August edition of the ASCE Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. The editorial is entitled "A Call to Enhance the Resiliency of the Nation's Water Management."

The editorial points to Conservancy and USACE partnership work, such as the Sustainable Rivers Project, as well as the challenges we face with an aging Civil Works infrastructure. It highlights the common ground between built infrastructure and natural ecosystems by focusing on how reservoir operations can be modified, in some cases in concert with providing increased connectivity with floodplains to better balance – or even enhance – the response to both flood risk management and ecosystem restoration goals.

Achieving such balance is described in terms of embracing approaches that place greater emphasis on opportunities for safely reconnecting the land and the water. Connecting floodplains and floodways with the river, through natural processes or the replication of legacy flows, is consistent with an integrated water resources management approach.

The editorial discusses lessons drawn from different watershed sizes, ranging from relatively small basins such as the Green River watershed in Kentucky to continental scale basins such as the Mississippi Basin. Lessons can be learned from the recent historic flooding in the Mississippi Basin – and the effectiveness of the flood management system designed in the aftermath of the disastrous 1927 Mississippi flood – to emphasize the importance of using floodplains and floodways to help manage floods. There is great value in learning from past events and responding with comprehensive, sustainable water-management systems.

The editorial lays out four principles that inform how sustainable flood protection can be achieved in concert with addressing multiple water purposes, such as the provision of water supply, the generation of hydro-electric power, the facilitation of recreation opportunities for the American people and the enhancement of the environmental health of freshwater ecosystems.

In this manner, the editorial argues, the use of more sustainable approaches to floodplain management can provide opportunities for the reallocation of reservoir storage for other contemporary water needs. When reservoir operations are synchronized with the use of other engineering and natural features within a watershed system, such as making room for water through set-back levees and/or the safe use of flowage and natural storage areas, and coupled with the kind of risk-informed floodplain management promoted by the Silver Jackets Program, these components of integrated water resources management can reduce current stresses on water resources while also enhancing both social and ecological resiliency.

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