Urban Waters Federal Partnership Cooperative Matching Funds Projects

Science Center Objects

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP) reconnects urban communities—particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed—with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies.

The UWFP joins federal agency science and community-led revitalization efforts to improve our Nation's water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits. Congress asked the USGS National Water Quality Program (NWQP) to redirect funds in fiscal years 2017–2020 to support USGS-UWFP joint projects. Projects funded since the start of the UWFP funding in fiscal year 2017 have supported a wide range of water-quality related monitoring, assessment, management practice evaluation, and educational activities. These projects are done in cooperation with municipal, state, and regional partners focused on restoring and revitalizing urban waterways.

Geographic areas with projects selected for funding

Inset map showing continental United States, state outline, and 2020 project areas


Map, Anacoastia watershed

Anacostia River Watershed—Washington, DC, area

Contact: Charles Walker

Understanding Hydrologic Processes on the Tidal Anacostia River (funded in 2018). A new hydrologic monitoring station on the tidal portion of the Anacostia River measures stage (height), discharge by velocity, water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and potentially nitrate in real time.  Monitoring at short timescales provides a unique insight into processes in the tidal Anacostia River, particularly during storm flow.  The data will have important applications for the management of flow, sediment loadings, and nutrient-induced eutrophication in the Anacostia River.








Map, Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds

Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds—New York City, NY

ContactStephen TerraccianoShawn FisherIrene Fisher

Assessing Sources of Pathogens to the Bronx and Harlem Rivers at Points of Public Access (funded in 2019). This investigation expands sampling along the Harlem River and adds the Bronx River to a current project identifying sources of fecal bacteria at locations of current or planned public access to the rivers. Information on relative contributions of host organisms and concentrations, combined with data on factors that may affect those concentrations, will assist in management of access and use at boat launches and other access points.

Preliminary Quantification of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Bronx River, NY (2019). This assessment leverages an ongoing study of PFAS on Long Island, NY, to include the Bronx River. A suite of 28 PFAS compounds will be measured in stream water and bed sediment collected from multiple locations along the Bronx River under storm and non-storm conditions. The results from the assessment will provide federal, state, and local entities with information regarding the extent and pervasiveness of PFAS in the Bronx River.

Assessing Green Infrastructure and Water Quality in an Urban Watershed (funded in 2018). The USGS is partnering with New York City Parks to evaluate the effectiveness of different green infrastructure systems in removing stormwater-related contaminants in areas of existing and proposed parks. Activities include assessing the effectiveness of a green roof, the intertidal zone, and a bioswale at removing contaminants in stormwater runoff; evaluating whether newly planted street trees can help capture stormwater runoff; and monitoring of the effects of a newly installed geothermal well on surface-water and groundwater quality.

Monitoring stormwater and Groundwater for Management of Geothermal and Green Infrastructure Development in New York City (funded in 2017). There is a need for a better understanding of water quality and the effects of recharging water caused by various forms of geothermal systems in the Bronx, New York. This project involves equipping sites to monitor groundwater and stormwater at select locations green infrastructure and geothermal systems installed in the Bronx. Understanding dissolved minerals and composition of the groundwater from wells in New York City will aid in design, construction and longevity of geothermal systems.


Map, Delaware River Basin Watershed

Delaware River Watershed—Greater Philadelphia, PA, area

Contact: Joe Duris

Improved Water Quality Monitoring and Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessment in the Darby Creek Watershed, PA (funded in 2019). This project will add continuous water-quality monitoring capability at four sites along Darby Creek, which feeds into the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia.  Sampling of the macroinvertebrate community in the creek sediment will also be done. The water-quality and aquatic-health information for the heavily urbanized Darby Creek watershed will assist in management of the refuge.








Map, Northwest Indiana watershed

Grand and Little Calumet Rivers—Northwest Indiana

ContactPaul Buszka, Dave Lampe

Water Quality GW/SW Interactions at Restored Wetlands near Grand Calumet River, Gary, Indiana (funded in 2020).  The Pine Station and Clark-Pine Nature Preserves are restored wetlands in the Grand Calumet-Indiana Harbor Canal Area of Concern (AOC) that harbor State endangered and threatened plant species.  Water-level fluctuations and groundwater/surface-water interactions are key controls on viability of plant communities in these and other restored wetlands in the AOC. This project will monitor water-level fluctuations and analyze water quality to investigate how water budget components and prior land use may relate to water quality.

Watershed-Wide Temperature Monitoring, Little Calumet River (funded in 2019). This project adds real-time monitoring of temperature to other data collected at 10 USGS stage and streamflow monitors along the Little Calumet River. Temperature data are among the key indicators of appropriate conditions for fishing and paddling sports and of habitat restoration effectiveness. Temperature data also will contribute to future enhanced flow, flood simulation, and thermal modeling efforts. Seasonal continuous water-quality monitoring is being added to one site to understand conditions relative to high and low flows.

Rain garden monitoring and real-time temperature data (funded in 2018). This project evaluates how rain gardens affect infiltration of stormwater that seasonally contains deicing chemicals. The monitoring, which involves continuous measurement of specific conductance, feeds into existing work between the USGS and the City of Gary, Indiana, designed to better understand how rain gardens affect the water budget of stormwater flows. In a second project, the USGS assisted in the installation of water temperature sensors in tributaries of Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, and in managing and reporting the data. The real-time streamflow and temperature data benefit recreational use of the stream and flood and thermal forecasting.

Real-time monitoring of Grand Calumet River and Little Calumet River (funded in 2017). Real time water-quality data can shed light on water quality dynamics at Lake Michigan basin-Illinois River basin flow exchanges. For the project, two multi-parameter water-quality sondes recorded continuous readings for water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, chlorophyll and blue-green algae. These data are needed to fill a gap to understand how post-restoration water-quality properties related to prior dredging might affect in-stream habitat sustainability.


Map, Lake Pontchartrain Area Watershed

Lake Pontchartrain—New Orleans, LA, area

ContactScott Mize

Waterbirds as indicators of water-quality and ecological conditions in Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge, New Orleans, LA (funded in 2019). The Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (levee system) for New Orleans has blocked surface water exchange between Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding lakes and Gulf of Mexico. Monitoring subsequent changes in hydrology, water quality, habitat, and waterbird and nekton communities within the refuge is important for the sustainability of these aquatic resources. Work focuses on linking changes in water levels to changes in water quality, bird populations, and habitat. 

Water-Quality Conditions Associated with Water Level Changes in Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge (funded in 2019). The 24,000-acre Bayou Sauvage, one of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain, is an urban National Wildlife Refuge that connects people with nature. Recent work to protect New Orleans from storm damage has blocked the exchange of water between the Bayou and the larger water bodies to which it once was connected. This investigation will monitor water level and water quality in the Bayou to determine how those conditions may be affected by the lack of exchange and will aid in managing recreation and outreach.


Map, Los Angeles River Watershed

Los Angeles River Basin—California

ContactMichael Land

Continuous, Real-Time Water-Quality Monitoring in the Los Angeles River (funded in 2019). This project will provide high-quality, real-time, continuous water-quality data in a reach of the Los Angeles River slated for revitalization. Data are expected to provide information for enhanced recreational use, inform local organizations and municipal entities interested in current water-quality and flow conditions, contribute to future assessments of factors affecting surface-water quality in this heavily urbanized area, and support science-based management practices to protect public land and water.








Inset map showing Duwamish River basin and surrounding state outlines

Lower Duwamish Waterway, Seattle, WA, area

Contact: Craig Senter

Understanding groundwater processes that relate to contaminant transport in the tidal Lower Duwamish Waterway (funded in 2020).  Understanding the potential sources of sediment re-contamination within the Lower Duwamish Waterway, Seattle, WA, is key to a successful and long-lasting cleanup plan for this contaminated site. This project will determine how, when, and where contaminated groundwater drains to the tidally influenced Lower Duwamish Waterway by building a site-wide understanding of groundwater flow, using novel tracking tools to determine paths of contaminant migration in groundwater, and exploring how contaminant concentrations might change along those paths.








Map, Lower Gila river in Arizona

Lower Gila River, Phoenix, AZ, area

Contact: Jamie Macy

Groundwater and Surface Water Characterization for the Restoration of Native Vegetation on the Lower Gila River for the Rio Salado Project (funded in 2020).  The El Rio Vegetation Management Plan as part of the Rio Salado Project was developed to identify areas to remove salt cedar and revegetate with native plant species including cottonwoods, willows, and mesquite. Revegetation efforts will reduce the floodplain expanse, enhance ecosystem function, and improve water quality. Water sampling and continuous monitoring of specific conductance, surface water, and shallow groundwater level fluctuations will provide baseline data for identifying restoration areas suitable for planting native species.







Inset map showing Passaic River basin and surrounding state outlines

Lower Passaic River Basin, Newark, NJ, area

Contact: Bob Reiser

Microbial Source Tracking in the Lower Passaic River basin, New Jersey (funded in 2020).  The Passaic River and some tributaries are on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s 303(d) list of impaired waters contaminated with fecal indicator bacteria.  This project will investigate the occurrence and potential sources of E. coli in the Second River and Third River tributaries to the urbanized lower Passaic River. Stream sites will be sampled for E. coli, caffeine, and four genetic biomarkers to identify sources of pathogens during various streamflow conditions.








Map, Middle Blue River Watershed

Middle Blue River—Kansas City, MO, area

ContactJohn Schumacher, Heather Krempa

Implementation of a Bi-State Long-Term Benchmark Water-Quality Monitoring Network for the Blue River Federal Urban Waters (funded in 2019). This project will take the first step toward the establishment of a network of long-term water-quality monitoring “benchmark sites” on the Blue River. These benchmark sites will become the framework around which other monitoring efforts by multiple local and state organizations, currently being carried out piecemeal, can be designed.  Multiple sites will be screened for a range of water- and sediment-quality properties and compounds, and habitat and biological assessments will be done at a subset of sites to aid at final benchmark sites selection.

Connecting People and Water in the Kansas City Metro Area (funded in 2018). As part of “Renew the Blue”, a program to increase public engagement with the Middle Blue River, the USGS is assessing water quality, habitat, fish, and macroinvertebrate communities on the Middle Blue River and some of its tributaries. The assessment will provide key information on the ecological health of the river. USGS also is involved in an ecological assessment at the Kansas City Municipal Farm. The Municipal Farm, long abandoned, is an opportunity for environmental restoration, research, and recreation for the surrounding Eastwood Hills neighborhood. The USGS is assessing the phytoplankton community, algal toxins, and fish tissue toxins in three of the farm’s ponds.


Map, Middle Rio Grande watershed

Middle Rio Grande—Albuquerque, NM, area

ContactRebecca Travis

Gauging the Effects of Habitat Restoration in the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (funded in 2018). In the Valle de Oro, the Southwest’s first Urban National Wildlife Refuge, irrigated fescue and alfalfa farm fields are being restored to diverse floodplain habitats, including seasonal wetlands, bosque, grasslands, and upland habitats. To help gauge the success of habitat restoration, the USGS is collecting data on the quality of surface water and groundwater at the refuge before and during the restoration process. Similar baseline data collection also is ongoing at the Albuquerque South Valley Community Commons’ McEwen Pond, where multiple partners are building an urban ecosystem in the South Valley and revitalizing a 4-acre lot near McEwen Pond.

Preliminary Assessment of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) loads into the Rio Grande from three Stormwater Basins in Bernalillo County (funded in 2017).  PCBs are persistent legacy contaminants that present a health risk to aquatic organisms and humans. This project involves water and soil sampling at four stormwater collection basins to characterize PCB concentrations in soil and water samples, estimate stormwater discharges from the four basins, and estimate PCB loads for the four basins.  PCB loading to the Rio Grande from each urban watershed is simulated using a computer-based, rainfall-runoff model.


Inset map showing Mystic River basin and surrounding state outlines

Mystic River Watershed - Boston, MA, area

Contact: Alana Spaetzel

Integrating stormwater drainage into the USGS StreamStats application for the Mystic River watershed, Massachusetts (funded in 2020). Stakeholders in the highly urbanized Mystic River watershed are concerned about phosphorus loading, flooding, and climate resiliency. Addressing these concerns requires assessment of the total area, including stormwater infrastructure, that contributes to this impacted water body.This project will expand the functionality of the USGS StreamStats application to include the stormwater drainage network in the Mystic River Watershed, enabling users to accurately determine topographic drainage areas, stormwater network contributing areas, and corresponding basin characteristics.







Map, Patapsco Watershed

Patapsco Watershed—Baltimore, MD, area

Contact: Emily Majcher

Refining Sources of PCBs to Back River (funded in 2019). This study investigates whether fats, oils, and grease (FOG), which are common a common problem in aging sanitary sewer pipes, are accumulating polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and contributing them to the Back River within the Patapsco River watershed. The presence of PCBs in FOG deposits in the sanitary sewer system may result in ongoing loading of PCBs to liquid sewage, which then enters the wastewater treatment plant.  The work will further the understanding of the role that the century-old sanitary sewer system plays in the occurrence of PCBs.

Determining Sources of PCBs to Back River (funded in 2018). This USGS pilot study is helping to determine sources of PCBs to the Back River and will demonstrate innovative monitoring and analysis techniques for more efficient use of mitigation resources. Three general sources are being investigated:  1) mobile sediment-bound PCBs under low-flow and stormflow conditions, 2) stationary sediment-bound PCBs in areas with known PCB contamination, and 3) PCBs in wastewater, including effluent and sanitary sewer overflows. The results of pilot study could aid in eventual cleanup efforts in other urban areas in the region and around the country. The project is being done in cooperation with Baltimore City, Baltimore County and University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).


Map, Bexar County

San Antonio River Basin—Texas

ContactDoug Schnoebelen

Enhancing the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone Network (funded in 2019).  This project work will add value to the existing Edwards aquifer recharge zone network, which provides information on short-term and long-term water-quality changes in a dynamic karst aquifer underlying a rapidly urbanizing area. The new funding will allow upgrading of three monitoring wells with multi-parameter sondes for continuous measurement of fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM), turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and pH, and will add an unconfined monitoring well to the network to increase the spatial coverage of sites in key areas.

Suspended Sediment and Nutrient Delivery to the Gulf of Mexico—The Role of Urban Areas (funded in 2018). How do urban activities within the City of San Antonio, such as home and commercial construction, demolition, and road construction, contribute to the ultimate load of sediment and nutrients, including nitrate, that is delivered to the Gulf? For this project, the USGS has upgraded a critical streamflow gaging station to a “Super Station” that measures streamflow, turbidity, nitrate, and other properties of water in real time. This site integrates the upstream urban tributaries, and data collected here can be compared to data from a gaging station that captures the rural component of the watershed.

Surface and Groundwater Water Quality Network for the Recharge Zone (funded in 2017). The City of San Antonio is unique in that urban surface-water runoff occurs over the recharge zone of the Edwards aquifer, one of the largest karst (limestone) aquifers in the world. The City’s rapid growth could directly impact groundwater quality. This project adds critical sites and infrastructure to the existing project forming a new “cutting edge” water-quality network over the recharge zone. The work, which pairs new urban sites with existing sites, includes new sensors, streamflow sites, and water-quality analyses.

Learn more about how the USGS is helping inform management agencies in the San Antonio region about the effects of urbanization by monitoring water quality and water quantity.


Map, South Platte Watershed

South Platte River—Denver, CO, area

ContactBill Battaglin

Phosphorous Monitoring in Denver (funded in 2019). This project will develop and implement strategies to monitor phosphorus in the South Platte River and Cherry Creek through Denver. The monitoring is critical to establish a baseline of current phosphorus concentrations in these downstream urban waterways prior to Denver Water’s pending addition of orthophosphate to drinking water to reduce corrosion and associated risk of lead exposure for its customers. Baseline concentrations will be key in future identification and quantification of changes associated with the drinking-water treatment.