Water Availability and Use Science Program

Current Budget Justification

The primary building blocks of the water budget are precipitation, streamflow, evapotranspiration, water use, and change in storage. Water budgets, much like financial budgets, track inflows (deposits) and outflows (debits) of water to identified landscapes allowing estimates of the resulting change in storage (account balance) which help determine water availability. Understanding human water use (including instream uses for ecosystems and recreation) and its effect on the hydrologic cycle is critical to estimating water availability at any specific location. The WAUSP supports research into the quantification of water-budget variables that affect the availability of water, the development of innovative tools resource managers can use in planning activities, and through the National Water Census (NWC), the WAUSP works with partners and stakeholders to improve our understanding on increasing demand and competition for limited regional water resources to ensure adequate water availability for both human and ecological needs now and into the future.

2021 Strategic Actions

  • Conduct research on water availability; synthesizing, predicting, and reporting information at regional and national scales; enhance the Nation’s water modeling and prediction capability; and compile and reporting water information in ways that are useful to States.
  • Continue development and delivery of the National Integrated Water Availability Assessment (IWAA), a near-real time census of water resources that will evaluate water availability for human and ecological use, infrastructure, security, and economic optimization.
  • Support a pilot Regional IWAA in the Delaware River Basin focused on the impacts of severe drought on water availability for human and ecological uses.
  • Implement the first full Regional IWAA in the headwaters of the Colorado and Gunnison River Basin in collaboration and coordination with the Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) and the Integrated Water Prediction (IWP) program.
  • Integrate water-quality models, such as those that look at changes in nutrients, water reuse, sediment, pesticides, and emerging toxins like those produced by harmful algal blooms (HABs), into national and regional IWAAs.
  • Continue evaluating water availability indicators and trends, inclusive of both quantity and quality, and the factors driving observed trends in water availability.
  • Continue development and application of models estimating withdrawal related to water use.
  • Operationalize field-scale evapotranspiration (ET) estimation techniques; develop new techniques to evaluate ecological flows in headwater streams; and, continue drought research, including determining the changing importance of snowmelt in the hydrologic cycle.
  • Continue development and application of field and modeling tools to better understand groundwater and surface-water interactions and to support evaluations of conjunctive management of these resources.
  • Support studies at Water Science Centers across the Nation in cooperation with State, local, regional, and Tribal partners that provide the data and tools necessary for resource managers to make management decisions regarding water availability now and into the future.


Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Status

A current summary of the 2021 budget process for the WAUSP is below.

  2019 2020 2021
Mission Area / Program / Activity
(dollars in thousands)
[Base Funding]
[Base Funding]
President's Budget
(PB) Request
Budget Changes from
2020 Enacted
Water Resources: Water Availability and Use Science Program
– Fixed Costs [0] [0] [674] +674
– Mississippi River Alluvial Plain (MAP) Aquifer Assessment [4,000] [6,000] [0] -6,000
– U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment (TAAP) [1,000] [1,000] [0] -1,000
– Water Use Data and Research (WUDR) [1,500] [1,500] [0] -1,500
– Regional Groundwater Evaluations [2,272] [2,272] [1,969] -303
– Water Science Research and Development [6,886] [6,685] [1,961] -4,724
Cooperative Matching Funds (CMF) [13,397] [13,598] [12,397] -1,201
Base CMF [10,397] [10,598] [10,397] -201
– Water Use Research (CMF) [2,000] [2,000] [1,000] -1,000
Total Water Availability and Use Science Program 45,487 47,487 33,433 -14,054
Total Water Resources (includes all Water Resources programs) 226,308 234,120 180,809 -53,311
USGS TOTAL (includes all USGS programs) 1,160,596 1,270,957 971,185 -299,772

Table showing the President’s Budget Request for the 2021 appropriations process. House and Senate Marks, as well as the Enacted, will be added when each are passed.


President’s Budget Request

The 2021 President’s Budget requested $33.4 million for WAUSP activities. Within this amount, the budget provides $12.4 million in Cooperative Matching Funds (CMF) to partner with local, State, regional, and tribal agencies to monitor and assess water resources.

*Note: the 2021 budget proposes to restructure the USGS Water Resources Mission Area (WMA) budget. Under the new structure, the WAUSP would be consolidated with modeling, research, and assessment activities of the Groundwater and Streamflow Information and National Water Quality programs into a new budget program: the Water Resources Availability Program. For more information on the WMA budget restructure and 2021 request, please see the WMA Chapter of the 2021 Budget.

As Congress takes action on 2021 appropriations, this page will be updated.


Budget Process Overview

Each year, federal agencies formulate a budget for the following fiscal year based on guidance and input from the Executive Office of the President (which includes the Office of Management and Budget), and, for USGS, the Department of the Interior. Congressional budget justifications (for the USGS, this is known as the “Greenbook”) are submitted to Congress as the President’s Budget Request by law on the first Monday in February prior to the new fiscal year starting October 1. Following release of that Budget Request, agencies work to justify their budget and answer questions from Congress. Over the next 8 months, each chamber of Congress provides their proposed budgets, referred to as the House and Senate “Marks”. Based on these Marks, Congress works to negotiate a final bill that, once passed, goes to the President’s desk for signature. Once signed, the bill becomes law. The agencies are then required to produce an operating plan to justifies the funding appropriated by Congress.

During the budget process, the USGS interacts with the Appropriations committees in each chamber. Specifically, the USGS falls under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. For more information on these subcommittees, please visit the following websites:

In addition to the Appropriations committees, the USGS receives questions from various Congressional stakeholders. These stakeholders, referred to as authorizing committees, have specific oversight responsibilities that include authorizing agency activities and providing guidance regarding appropriate levels of funding levels to carry out the authorized activities. The USGS resides in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. However, the Water Resources Mission Area reports to a separate subcommittee than the rest of the USGS. For more information on these committees, please visit the following websites:

A summary of the authorizations that are relevant to the WAUSP can be found at the Authorizations page of this site.