Where can I find detailed sampling methods for surface water and groundwater?

The National Field Manual for the Collection of Water-Quality Data (National Field Manual) provides guidelines and standard procedures for USGS personnel who collect data used to assess the quality of the Nation’s surface water and groundwater resources. The manual is published as separate chapters.

Learn more: Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations Reports



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Why does my drinking water look cloudy sometimes?

Once in a while you get a glass of water that looks cloudy; maybe milky is a better term. After a few seconds, it miraculously clears up! The cloudiness is due to tiny air bubbles in the water. Like any bubbles, the air rises to the top of the water and goes into the air, clearing up the water. The water in the pipes coming into your house might...

Where can I find information about my local drinking water supply?

The best way to learn about your local drinking water quality is to read the annual drinking water quality report/consumer confidence report that water suppliers now send out by July 1 of each year. The reports are often sent out with water bills, but they may be sent separately. The reports tell where drinking water comes from, what contaminants...

What can cause our water to have an earthy odor or to smell like rotten eggs?

Naturally-occurring organic compounds are created when plant material decays in lakes and reservoirs. Those organic compounds frequently cause musty, earthy odors, especially toward the end of summer. The odors can be objectionable, but generally are not harmful to health. However, odors can be caused by other constituents as well, so you might...

How is the salinity of Great Salt Lake measured?

The salinity of Great Salt Lake is measured by taking specific gravity and temperature measurements and comparing them to standardized values reported in a table. Specific gravity is measured in the field by testing a water sample with a device very similar to a battery or antifreeze tester. Learn more: Great Salt Lake, Utah

Does the use of pesticides affect our Nation's water quality?

Pesticide use in the United States has increased because not only must we supply our exploding population with food, but crops and food are also grown for export to other countries. The United States has become the largest producer of food products in the world, partly owing to our use of modern chemicals (pesticides) to control the insects, weeds...

Do you have information about water hardness in the United States?

See our national map of hardness in surface water . Hardness data (reflecting mostly calcium, plus a little magnesium) for individual drinking-water suppliers is at the EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water website. It is important to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a legal limit or standard for...

If the ground filters water, is groundwater always clean?

Water drawn from a well was once precipitation that fell onto Earth's surface. It seeped into the ground and, over time, occupied the porous space in some subsurface material. Big particles that are in surface streams, such as leaf chunks, will not be seen in groundwater. So, yes, big particles are filtered out by the ground, along with some...
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Date published: February 13, 2017

New USGS Field Method is a Breakthrough for Contaminant Analysis in Water Samples

The U.S. Geological Survey published a new report highlighting a portable continuous-flow centrifuge which aims to save time and money on contaminant analysis of particles suspended in water samples.

Date published: August 29, 2016

Groundwater Sampling Method Key to Monitoring Success of Carbon Sequestration

TECHNICAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Monitoring, verification and accounting are key parts to demonstrating the feasibility or success of integrated carbon capture and storage technologies.

Filter Total Items: 15
Filling teflon churn with water sampled from Laramie River nr Laramie
July 8, 2016

Filling the teflon churn with water sampled from Laramie River near La

Filling the teflon churn with water sampled from Laramie River near Laramie

Deployed Passive Water Sampler
April 18, 2016

Deployed Passive Water Sampler

Deployed Passive Water Sampler

Technician filters water sample containing eDNA
April 8, 2015

A water sample is prepped to be tested for environmental DNA

Laboratory technician Amelia Ulmer filters water collected in the field, to be analyzed for environmental DNA in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Hunter. This sample was tested for Burmese python eDNA, in a process similar to that developed by Dr. Hunter for manatee eDNA.

Collecting water samples
December 31, 2013

Collecting water samples

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist collects water samples on Little Lake Butte des Morts, Wisconsin, for contaminants testing.

Mount Rushmore water sampling
July 10, 2012

Water Sampling at Mount Rushmore

USGS scientists take samples of Lafferty Gulch surface water, which was analyzed for perchlorate and metals.

Image: Water Sampling with a Kemmerer
August 1, 2011

Water Sampling with a Kemmerer

Sampling surface waters on Lake Michigan using a Kemmerer Water Sampler


Attribution: Water Resources
February 10, 2010

Why Some Public-Supply Wells are More Vulnerable to Contamination Than Others

This video discusses how scientists have tracked what, when, and how contaminants may reach public-supply wells in four aquifers in California, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Florida.

Ryan Rasmussen and Cassandra Pfeifle, Hydrologic Technicians, collect samples at Little River Reservoir, 2009.
August 19, 2009

Water Sampling at Little River Reservoir, Durham County, NC, 2009.

Ryan Rasmussen and Cassandra Pfeifle, Hydrologic Technicians, collect samples at Little River Reservoir, 2009. 

Image: Spring Water Sampling
July 22, 2005

Spring Water Sampling

A USGS geologist samples spring water near a gold prospect in the Shotgun Hills, Alaska.

Attribution: Water Resources
photo of USGS staffer holding a groundwater sample bottle inside a plastic box
April 10, 2000

Groundwater sampling

Groundwater sampling on Long Island

Image: Scientist Taking Water Samples

Scientist Taking Water Samples

Todd Preston, USGS contract scientist, collecting a surface-water sample from a Prairie Pothole wetland.

Attribution: Ecosystems