Work conducted by the National Water Quality Program is designed to answer four basic questions regarding the quality of the Nation’s freshwater resources.
Work conducted by the National Water Quality Program is designed to answer four basic questions regarding the quality of the Nation’s freshwater resources:
- What is the quality of the Nation's streams and groundwater?
- How is water quality changing over time?
- How do natural factors and human activities affect the quality of streams and groundwater?
- How will water quality change in response to future changes in climate and human activities?
Vital components of the National Water Quality Program include:
- National water-quality monitoring networks for freshwater streams, groundwater, and atmospheric deposition that provide high quality, long-term data on a nationally consistent set of water-quality measures. These measures include nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and stream ecology along with consistent records of streamflow basin characteristics and other measures of human activity.
- Annual web-based reporting of the concentrations, loads, and trends of nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and other contaminants in rivers flowing into important coastal estuaries.
- Local, regional, and national-level studies to identify, describe, and explain the sources, transport and fate of key contaminants observed in streams and groundwater and how and why they have changed through time.
- Model-based decision support tools that allow water-resource managers to extrapolate water-quality conditions to unmonitored locations and to evaluate how water-quality or ecosystem conditions may change in response to different scenarios of population growth, climate, water or land use.
- Maps showing the distribution of nitrate, arsenic, uranium, and other contaminants in water supply aquifers at the depths pumped by domestic and public supply wells.
- Research to develop and disseminate science-based tools needed for a fundamental understanding of the processes that affect the quality of the Nation’s waters.
- Environmental analytical services, through the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) specializing in trace- and ultratrace-level analyses of water, sediment, and tissue for inorganic, organic, and radiochemical constituents; taxonomic identification and quantitation of benthic invertebrates; method development for new pesticides and other contaminants; and data management.
Work supporting these activities is conducted under the following large projects or programs:
- National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project: Established by Congress in 1991, NAWQA was created to develop long-term, nationally consistent information on the quality of the Nation’s streams and groundwater, and thereby support scientifically sound decisions for water-quality management, regulation, and policy decisions. NAWQA operates national-scale monitoring networks for stream, river, and groundwater quality, assesses current conditions and trends in water quality using NAWQA and other agency data, develops models to extrapolate observed water-quality conditions over space and time, and conducts studies to evaluate which human and natural factors affect water quality for use by humans and aquatic ecosystems. As the USGS Water Resources Mission Area (WMA) looks to the future, we are updating our water programs to meet 21st century water-resource challenges. As part of these updates, we are integrating NAWQA activities into new WMA programs.
- National Park Service-Water Quality Partnership (NPS-WQP): The USGS–NPS Water Quality Partnership was initiated in 1998 to support a broad range of policy and management needs related to high-priority water-quality issues in national parks. Studies are conducted by the USGS in cooperation with NPS and findings are used by the NPS to guide policy and management actions aimed at protecting and improving water quality.
- National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP): The USGS has been the lead Federal agency for the monitoring of the quality of wet (and dry) atmospheric deposition in the United States for the interagency NADP since 1981. This includes monitoring basic precipitation chemistry such as pH and acidity and other constituents that have a significant atmospheric source such as nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury. These networks provide scientists, resource managers, and policymakers worldwide with long-term, high-quality atmospheric deposition data used to support research and decision-making in the areas of air quality, water quality, agricultural effects, forest productivity, materials effects, ecosystem studies, watershed studies, and human health.
- Other NWQP activities are supported by USGS cooperative matching funds, funds that support water-quality research, and funds directed by Congress towards specific topics such as urban water quality.
Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Status
A current summary of the 2021 budget process for the NWQP is below.
|Mission Area / Program / Activity
(dollars in thousands)
|Budget Changes from
|Water Resources: National Water Quality Program|
|– Fixed Costs||||||[1,173]||+1,173|
|– National Park Service Water-Quality Partnership||[1,743]||[1,743]||||-1,743|
|– Shallow and Fractured Bedrock Groundwater Research||||||||-300|
|– National Atmospheric Deposition Program||[1,576]||[1,576]||||-1,576|
|– Groundwater Quality Monitoring Networks||[5,231]||[5,231]||[4,301]||-930|
|- Water Quality Trends||[12,748]||[12,748]||[12,290]||-458|
|– Regional Water-Quality Assessments||[4,100]||[4,100]||||-4,100|
|– Water Science Research and Development||[10,003]||[9,598]||[1,954]||-7,644|
|Cooperative Matching Funds (CMF)||[18,050]||[19,267]||[16,514]||-2,753|
|- Base CMF||[16,514]||[16,919]||[16,514]||-405|
|– Urban Waters Federal Partnership (CMF)||||[1,000]||||-1,000|
|– Harmful Algal Blooms (includes CMF and Non-CMF funding)*||[4,461]||[4,990]||[3,642]||-1,348|
|Total National Water Quality Program||91,648||92,460||74,129||-18,331|
|Total Water Resources (includes all Water Resources programs)||226,308||234,120||180,809||-53,311|
|USGS TOTAL (includes all USGS programs)||1,160,596||1,270,957||971,185||-299,772|
Table showing the President’s Budget Request for the 2021 appropriations process. House and Senate Marks, as well as the Enacted, will be added when each are passed.
President’s Budget Request
The 2021 President’s Budget requested \$74.1 million for NWQP activities. Within this amount, the budget provides \$16.5 million in Cooperative Matching Funds (CMF) to partner with local, State, regional, and tribal agencies to monitor and assess water resources.
*Note: the 2021 budget proposes to restructure the WMA budget. Under the new structure, modeling, research, and assessment activities of the NWQP would be consolidated with similar activities funded by the Water Availability and Use Science and Groundwater and Streamflow Information programs under a new budget program: the Water Resources Availability Program. The monitoring activities of the NWQP would be consolidated with similar activities funded by the Groundwater and Streamflow Information program under a second new budget program: the Water Observing Systems Program. For more information on the WMA budget restructure and 2021 request, please see the WMA Chapter of the 2021 Budget.
As Congress takes action on 2021 appropriations, this page will be updated.
Budget Process Overview
Each year, federal agencies formulate a budget for the following fiscal year based on guidance and input from the Executive Office of the President (which includes the Office of Management and Budget), and, for USGS, the Department of the Interior. Congressional budget justifications (for the USGS, this is known as the “Greenbook”) are submitted to Congress as the President’s Budget Request by law on the first Monday in February prior to the new fiscal year starting October 1. Following release of that Budget Request, agencies work to justify their budget and answer questions from Congress. Over the next 8 months, each chamber of Congress provides their proposed budgets, referred to as the House and Senate “Marks”. Based on these Marks, Congress works to negotiate a final bill that, once passed, goes to the President’s desk for signature. Once signed, the bill becomes law. The agencies are then required to produce an operating plan to justifies the funding appropriated by Congress.
During the budget process, the USGS interacts with the Appropriations committees in each chamber. Specifically, the USGS falls under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. For more information on these subcommittees, please visit the following websites:
In addition to the Appropriations committees, the USGS receives questions from various Congressional stakeholders. These stakeholders, referred to as authorizing committees, have specific oversight responsibilities that include authorizing agency activities and providing guidance regarding appropriate levels of funding levels to carry out the authorized activities. The USGS resides in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. However, the Water Resources Mission Area reports to a separate subcommittee than the rest of the USGS. For more information on these committees, please visit the following websites:
- In the House, the WMA resides in the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife subcommittee.
- In the Senate, the WMA resides in the Water and Power subcommittee.
A summary of the authorizations that are relevant to the NWQP can be found at the Authorizations page of this site.