Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Pioneering Solutions

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Pioneering Solutions

Article excerpt

In the early days of the American West, the U.S. government encouraged allocation of water resources on a first-come, first-served basis and promoted development with disregard for the environment. It was the rare observer--like explorer, geologist, and ethnologist John Wesley Powell--who could see the big picture. Powell advocated developing the West along "hydrographic basin" lines that transcend political boundaries.

Today, a water-basin approach to managing water is finally making inroads with policymakers in the United States. "A watershed's upland flora and fauna, biotic integrity, riparian area, stream structure, and hydrology are a single system in nature," says the Bonneville Environmental Foundation's Angus Duncan. "Disconnect the parts and the whole unravels."

Watershed science can serve as a kind of referee for competing interests guarding their own territory. We need to find an alternative to the fundamental mismatch between current institutions of river governance and the ecology of watersheds, Duncan says

Governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, along with the mayor of Washington, D.C., the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have taken a giant step in that direction with a new interstate agreement: Chesapeake 2000.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, but ever since Captain John Smith described the bay in the early 1600s, its health has been in a steady decline, say Geoff Oxnam and John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Over the years, the bay's waters have received multiple insults, including household waste, industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, and sediment pollution from development. Since its inception in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has advocated state and federal response to the decline of the bay and spearheaded research and environmental outreach programs. …

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