Wisconsin Water Science Center

Water Quality

Water quality is measure of the suitability of water for a particular use based on selected physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. Water-quality monitoring is used to help water-resource managers understand and avert potential negative effects of man-made and natural stresses on water resources. The Wisconsin Water Science Center investigates water-quality issues using new technologies and techniques to study the physical, chemical, biological, geological interactions in rivers, streams, lakes, and groundwater in Wisconsin and across the Nation. Some of the issues we address include the occurrence, distribution, trends, and modeling of pollutants; the relationship between ecological responses and water quality; and the relationships between natural factors, land use, and water quality, in both rural and urban settings.

Browse WI WSC science related to:
Stream water quality
Lake water quality
Groundwater water quality
Urban water quality
Rural water quality

Filter Total Items: 41
Photo of a typical edge-of-field surface site
June 27, 2016

Edge-of-field monitoring focuses on identifying and reducing agricultural sources of excess nutrients which can threaten the health of streams, rivers, and lakes. Edge-of-field monitoring assesses the quantity and quality of agricultural runoff and evaluates the effectiveness of conservation practices that aim to reduce nutrient loss.

Volatile mercury sampling at Yellowstone National Park
April 22, 2016

The USGS Mercury Research Lab is a national leader in advancing mercury research and science, specializing in low-level mercury speciation and isotope analysis and mercury-source fingerprinting. The MRL leads national cutting-edge collaborative studies, including state-of-the-art sample analysis, methods development for field and lab procedures, and data interpretation and dissemination.

Photo of the discharge from an aquifer pumping test
April 20, 2016

Groundwater is an important water resource for Wisconsin. The USGS collects information on the quality and quantity of Wisconsin's groundwater and conducts advanced modeling of groundwater flow and groundwater/surface-water systems. The USGS also evaluates the effects of water-use, land-use, and climate change on groundwater, surface-water, and the ecosystems that rely on them.

Fall colors over a Wisconsin lake
April 19, 2016

Studying lakes provides an improved understanding of lake ecosystem dynamics and valuable information that helps lead to sound lake-management policies. The USGS collects hydrologic data in lake settings, studies water and nutrient budget development, conducts source-loading analysis, explores groundwater interactions, and performs lake water-quality modeling.

Image showing a schematic of the SPARROW model components
April 16, 2016

SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) models track the transport of nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus) from local inland watersheds to regional, coastal waters by explaining spatial patterns in stream water-quality conditions in relation to human activities and natural processes.

Photograph of an eroding bluff on North Fish Creek
April 15, 2016

Fluvial geomorphology studies provide an understanding of the physical processes responsible for shaping the character of streams and their riparian zones across both glaciatied and unglaciated regions of Wisconsin and the midwestern U.S.

Photos of Wisconsin Modeling Center computers and servers
March 29, 2016

The Wisconsin Modeling Center provides one-stop access to advanced computing so no project is limited by a lack of computer power. The Center can provide hardware access, assistance with migration and implementation, and training. We also develop, test, and disseminate state-of-the-art computational and analytical techniques and tools so models can be more effectively used in decision-making.

Photos show change in water clarity in agricultural runoff before and after a grassed waterway was installed
March 26, 2016

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative edge-of-field monitoring focuses on identifying and reducing agricultural sources of excess nutrients which threaten the health of the Great Lakes. The USGS supports these efforts by utilizing edge-of-field monitoring to assess the quantity and quality of agricultural runoff and evaluate conservation practices that aim to reduce sediment and nutrient loss.

Photo of a snow plow with a load of road salt
March 26, 2016

Chloride, a key component of road salt, is soluble, highly mobile in water, and, at high concentrations, can be toxic to aquatic vegetation and wildlife. USGS scientists have been analyzing temporal, seasonal, and environmental trends in chloride concentrations across the U.S. to determine the effects that road salt may be having on water quality and aquatic organisms.

Photo of the depth-integrated sample arm (DISA)
March 25, 2016

Many control options for sediments and associated contaminants in storm-water runoff from urban areas rely on settling of solids. This study characterizes particle-size distributions in urban storm-water runoff from specific source areas and land-use categories, with the hopes of assisting watershed managers and engineers design better control devices for reducing sediment in urban runoff.

Final installation of permeable pavement study test plots
March 24, 2016

Permeable pavement is a porous urban surface which catches precipitation and surface runoff, storing it in the reservoir while slowly allowing it to infiltrate into the soil below. This study will evaluate how well different types of permeable pavement reduces the amount of pollutants and runoff volume.

Photgraph of USGS employee surveying snowbanks at General Mitchell International Airport
March 23, 2016

Chemicals used to deice planes at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee may be entering nearby streams in concentrations that may be harmful to aquatic life. This project will investigate the toxicity of decing chemicals, evaluate their impact on receiving streams, and assess changes in water quality in response to the implementation of deicer management at General Mitchell Airport.