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Design and methods of the California stream quality assessment (CSQA), 2017

April 21, 2020

During 2017, as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Project, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted the California Stream Quality Assessment to investigate the quality of streams in the Central California Foothills and Coastal Mountains ecoregion, United States. The goal of the California Stream Quality Assessment study was to assess the health of wadeable streams in the region by characterizing multiple water-quality factors that are stressors to aquatic biota and by evaluating the relation between these stressors and biological indicators of stream health. Urbanization, agriculture, and modifications to streamflow are anthropogenic changes that affect water quality in the region; consequently, the study design primarily targeted sites and specific stressors associated with these activities. For the study, 85 stream sites were selected to represent the types and intensity of land use in the watershed; categories of site types were undeveloped, urban (low, medium, high), agriculture (low, high), and mixed (urban and agriculture). Most sites (about 70 percent) represent a gradient of urbanization from undeveloped to 99-percent urbanized. At most of the sites, streamgages or pressure transducers were used to monitor stream discharge and stage, as well as temperature. Water-quality samples were collected routinely at all sites and were analyzed for major ions, organic contaminants, nutrients, and suspended sediment. Sampling frequency varied on the basis of site type and location. Discrete water samples were collected weekly and generally 6 times per site, except for 11 undeveloped sites that were sampled only 4 times (during the last 4 weeks). Water sampling began at sites in the southern part of the study on March 13, 2017, and at sites in the northern part of the study on April 3, 2017. Passive samplers were deployed at most sites for measurement of polar organic contaminants (pesticides and pharmaceuticals). In May 2017, coincident with completion of water-quality sampling, an ecological survey was conducted at each site to assess benthic algal and macroinvertebrate communities and instream habitat. During the ecological surveys, a single composite streambed-sediment sample was collected for chemical analysis and toxicity testing. In addition, a few focused studies were done at subsets of sites, namely, measuring pesticides using small-volume automated samplers, measuring pesticides in biofilms, and sampling suspended sediments using passive samplers. This report describes the various study components and methods of the California Stream Quality Assessment, including measurements of water quality, sediment chemistry, habitat assessments, and ecological surveys, as well as procedures for sample analysis, quality assurance and quality control, and data management.

Publication Year 2020
Title Design and methods of the California stream quality assessment (CSQA), 2017
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201023
Authors Jason T. May, Lisa H. Nowell, James F. Coles, Daniel T. Button, Amanda H. Bell, Sharon L. Qi, Peter C. Van Metre
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1023
Index ID ofr20201023
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center