Albemarle-Pamlico Drainage Study Unit

Science Center Objects

The Albemarle-Pamilco Drainage Study Unit (ALBE) is part of the National Water Quality Program (NWQP, formerly National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA)). NWQP is an ongoing program of the U.S. Geological Survey to provide an understanding of water-quality conditions; whether conditions are getting better or worse over time; and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.

The ALBE drainage basin encompasses about 28,000 square miles in central and eastern North Carolina and southern Virginia and includes four major river basins—the Chowan, Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse. The study area extends through parts of four physiographic provinces—Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain.

Assessment of the Albemarle-Pamlico study area (ALBE) began in 1991 (Cycle I) with an intense 3-year period of surface-water, ground-water, and ecological data collection. Data collection from 1993 to 2000 included ground-water flow path sampling and monthly surface-water sampling at two sites selected for long-term trend evaluation. Intensive sampling began again in 2001 (Cycle II), with a focus on evaluating the effects of urban development on ecology and water quality (Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems (EUSE)), nutrient source and delivery modeling (Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes (SPARROW) modeling), and studying water quality of the Castle Hayne aquifer.

Currently the ALBE project is in Cycle III, which consists of the following science goals:

  1. Assess the current quality of the Nation’s freshwater resources and how water quality is changing over time (Status and Trends)

  2. Continuing: Evaluate how human activities and natural factors, such as land use and climate change, are affecting the quality of surface water and groundwater (Understanding Causes)

  3. Determine the effects of contaminants, excess nutrients, sediment, and streamflow alteration on aquatic ecosystems (Understanding Effects)

  4. Predict the effects of human activities, climate change, and management strategies on water quality and ecosystem condition (Forecasting)

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