In 14 benchmark watersheds, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is conducting in-depth studies that will help to validate physical-process models used for the National Assessment component of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). ARS has been conducting research on most of the 14 benchmark watersheds for a considerable period of time and anticipates that research and assessments in these watershed will be continued over many years.
ARS Watershed Assessment Study Plan, October 2004 (PDF; 4 MB)
The ARS CEAP plan describes the five specific research objectives and plans of the first five years of what is expected to be a much longer project. The objectives are:
Develop and implement a web-based data system to organize, document, manipulate, and compile climate, water, soil, land-management, and socioeconomic data from ARS research watersheds for assessment of conservation practices and other hydrologic analyses. The system is called STEWARDS: Sustaining the Earth's Watersheds, Agricultural Research Data System.
Validate models and quantify uncertainties of model predictions at multiple scales by comparing predictions of water quality to measured water, soil and land management effects of conservation practices.
Develop and apply policy-planning tools to aid selection and placement of conservation practices to optimize profits, environmental quality, and conservation practice efficiency.
Develop and verify regional watershed models that quantify environmental outcomes of conservation practices in major agricultural regions.
In addition, ARS will provide quality assurance/quality control guidelines for methods and procedures to be used for data collection and analysis in the benchmark watersheds.
Principal scientific investigators from each of the USDA-ARS watersheds meet annually with other CEAP scientists to share technical reports and other information from the 14 ARS Benchmark Watershed studies and other relevant research.