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National Water Quality Program (NWQP) activities are conducted under the authority of various pieces of authorizing legislation. Many of the primary authorizations that allow the USGS and NWQP to serve the American people are listed below, along with descriptions of either how the authorization relates to USGS or what NWQP activities are performed under a particular authorization.

General USGS Authorizations

The ORGANIC ACT OF MARCH 3, 1879, (43 U.S.C. 31 et seq.) that established the Geological Survey, as amended (1962); and restated in annual appropriation acts. This section provides, among others, that the Geological Survey is directed to classify the public lands and examine the geological structure, mineral resources, and products within and outside the national domain. This section also establishes the Office of the Director of the Geological Survey, under the Interior Department. The Director is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. P.L. 102-285 Sec. 10(a) establishes United States Geological Survey as its official name.  This is the original authorizing language to establish the USGS.

The ECONOMY ACT OF 1932, as amended (31 U.S.C. 1535) authorizes any agency to obtain goods and services from and reimburse any other agency if certain criteria are met. With over $100M in reimbursable work for other federal agencies each year, this is the underlying authorization that enables such agreements.

43 U.S.C. 50 - The share of the Geological Survey in any topographic mapping or water resources investigations carried on in cooperation with any State or municipality shall not exceed 50 per centum of the cost thereof. This authorization guides USGS implementation of their Cooperative Matching Funds as they are used to partner with over 1,600 State, regional, and local agencies.


Authorizations for Specific NWQP Activities

The HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS AND HYPOXIA RESEARCH AND CONTROL ACT OF 1998 (P.L. 105-383; as amended by Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2014, HABHRCA; P.L. 113-124; 16 U.S.C. 1451) names DOI as one of the Interagency Task Force members. Members are directed to "support the implementation of the Action Strategy, including the coordination and integration of the research of all Federal programs". Under this authority, the USGS is an active member agency in the Interagency Working Group on HABHRCA. USGS scientists have been leaders in the development of two published research plans and action strategies for Congress on harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia: a comprehensive strategy for the entire U.S. and a more targeted strategy for the Great Lakes. In addition, USGS monitoring, assessment, research, and modeling activities on HABs and hypoxia contribute toward successful implementation of the action plans and strategies recommended both HABHRCA reports.

The UPPER MISSISSIPPI RIVER MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1986 (33 U.S.C. 652) authorizes a program for planning, construction, and evaluation of measures for fish and wildlife habitat rehabilitation and enhancement; cooperative effort and mutual assistance for use, protection, growth, and development of the Upper Mississippi River system; implementation of a long-term resource monitoring program; and applied research program, including research on water quality issues affecting the Mississippi River (including elevated nutrient levels) and the development of remediation strategies. Under this authority, the USGS monitors nutrients loads and other water-quality constituents in the Mississippi River Basin and other large watersheds that drain into other important coastal areas and the Great Lakes, conducts research on nutrient cycling, and completes studies and develops water-quality models that can be used to assess and implement best management practices in agriculture and urban settings.

The FEDERAL WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1972 (and its successors, the CLEAN WATER ACT OF 1977 and the WATER QUALITY ACT OF 1987; 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) authorizes extensive water quality planning, studies, and monitoring under the direction primarily of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The USGS is called upon to participate in many of these activities, partly by EPA and partly by State agencies in the Federal-State Cooperative Program. The act of 1987 includes new water quality work concerning Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Estuary and Clean Lakes Programs, and studies of water pollution problems in aquifers. Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000 amends the Federal Water Pollution and Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to include authorization for the following: Title I, Estuary Restoration; Title II, Chesapeake Bay Restoration; Title III, National Estuary Program; Title IV, Long Island Sound Restoration; Title V, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration; Title VI, Alternative Water Sources; Title VII, Clean Lakes; and Title VIII, Tijuana River Valley Estuary and Beach Cleanup. The Clean Water Act charges States and Tribes with setting specific water-quality criteria appropriate for their waters and for developing pollution control programs to meet the criteria. The USGS provides nationally consistent monitoring and hydrologic data that are used by States and Tribes as they strive to meet Clean Water Act requirements. The USGS also is a key Federal partner in both the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Estuary Program.

The SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT, as amended (P.L. 104–182; 42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.) authorizes a sole source aquifer demonstration program designed to protect critical aquifer protection areas located with areas designated as sole or principal source aquifers. The USGS has an interagency agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) covering aquifer studies conducted by the Survey relating to sole source aquifers.

The ACID PRECIPITATION ACT OF 1980 (P.L. 96-294; 42 U.S.C. 8901 et seq.) authorizes an "Acid Precipitation Program and Carbon Dioxide Study," and includes the establishment of an Acid Precipitation Task Force (of which the Department of the Interior is a member) and a comprehensive 10-year research program. Title IX of the CLEAN AIR ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1990 (P.L. 101–549) calls for continuation of the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) established under the Acid Precipitation Act of 1980. The USGS is an active participant in the research program through its support of interagency monitoring of precipitation chemistry via the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. In addition, the USGS is a participant in studies of acid precipitation as a result of prior work in this field.

The KLAMATH BASIN WATER SUPPLY ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2000 (P.L. 106–498) authorizes the Bureau of Reclamation to conduct feasibility studies to augment water supplies for the Klamath Project, Oregon and California, and for other purposes. The Secretary of the Interior is directed to complete ongoing hydrologic surveys in the Klamath River Basin that are currently being conducted by the USGS. Since 1992, USGS scientists have been conducting hydrological research on many of the factors affecting Klamath Basin water resources. These studies include water-quality and quantity issues, sediment transport, and decreased water supply to wetland areas in National Wildlife Refuges.

The TRIBAL SELF-GOVERNANCE ACT OF 1994 (P.L. 103-413; 25 U.S.C. 450 et seq.) requires that DOI publish an annual list of non-BIA programs, services, functions, and activities, or portions thereof, that are eligible for inclusion in agreements negotiated under DOI’s self-governance program. The USGS collects water-quality samples, monitors streamflow, and conducts water-resource assessments in support of tribal water-resource decisions.

The SURFACE MINING CONTROL AND RECLAMATION ACT OF 1977 (as amended; 30 U.S.C. 1201-1202, 1211) establishes the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and directs them to assure that surface coal mining operations are conducted in way that protects the environment and provide a means for development of the data and analyses necessary to establish effective and reasonable regulation of surface mining operations for other minerals. The USGS supports this mission with the water-quality monitoring and assessments in areas affected by coal mining.