Session 3. Water Sustainability Indicators
Session Chair: Ethan T. Smith, Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable
Panelists: Karl Fennessey, Dow Chemical; Ted Heintz, White House Council on Environmental Quality; Robin O'Malley, Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment; Daniel Tunstall, World Resources Institute
Characteristics of Indicators
The nation should develop a linked set of indicators at multiple spatial and temporal scales that encompass the ecological, economic and social conditions and processes that are relevant to sustainable management of water resources. The set of indicators and the measurements from which they are produced should reflect scientific knowledge of the conditions, trends, processes and phenomena relevant to the sustainability of water resources, as they are linked to public policy issues. Reporting of indicators should include measures of their precision or uncertainty.
cScientists, resource managers from governments and the private sector, and interested
members of the public should participate and collaborate in the selection of indicators and the development of institutional capacities to produce and use them to describe water issues. The Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable (http://acwi.gov/swrr/) is an example of the type of collaborative process that is intended. One objective of these processes should be to increase the consistency and compatibility of the indicators and measures produced and used by different types of institutions.
The set of indicators should be appropriate for use by people in
a variety of institutions including local communities, watershed groups, corporations,
state and federal governments. Basin and watershed groups should be organized
to utilize the indicators. More consistency in measurement programs should be
developed among industry, academic, NGO's and government data initiatives. Pilot tests of new indicator systems should be carried out, to determine better ways of describing water issues; pilot studies should include, e.g., cost/benefit evaluation and comparison between output and outcome indicators. Universities should conduct research into the nature of water resources sustainability, and publish papers in the professional literature to aid in the improved definition of the necessary statistics and data collection programs.
The set of indicators should address
peoples' values and concerns. Methods and processes for using indicators should provide ways for peoples' values to be represented or expressed. Cultural values should be used as a way to determine a hierarchy of prioritization to help promote a balance between human and ecosystems needs.