NOAA Chief Kelly Outlines Water Challenges
By Brett Rosenberg
September 29, 2003
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Water Council was fortunate to have as a keynote speaker during the 2003 Urban Water Summit in Chicago Brigadier General (USAF Retired) John J. Kelly, Deputy Under Secretary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Gen. Kelly, who is also an assistant administrator for the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS), presented "From the Oceans to the Tap: NOAA Responds to Water Resources Challenges." He provided the Urban Water Council with a unique perspective on much of the science behind global water quality and quantity issues.
General Kelly described NOAA as an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce with a staff of over 12,000 people and a budget upwards of $3 billion. The NWS, a major department within NOAA, is responsible for fusing cutting edge meteorological forecasting technology, over 75,000 citizen weather observers and the American public's demand for accurate weather information. General Kelly emphasized that the Earth's climate and weather compose extremely complex systems in which, for example, western Pacific weather can affect snowfall in Washington (DC). The job of the NWS is to harmonize, organize, and coordinate data collection and analysis to effectively describe how weather patterns occur so that communities and citizens can prepare for extreme weather in a timely manner.
The National Weather Service and NOAA are also working on tools for communities to use to manage a number of natural resource issues. General Kelly identified drought prediction models that are being used to predict water levels in lakes, reservoirs and rivers, providing a useful means of addressing municipal water supply concerns in advance of shortages. Similar models are used to predict forest fire threats in arid parts of the US so that local and regional officials can mitigate the dangers of wildfires before they occur. He also noted that NWS data could be used to inform policy decisions, in particular those regarding water availability and accessibility and predicting regional air pollution and atmospheric deposition.