The U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program has three objectives, one of which is "to define trends (or lack of trends) in water quality" (Leahy and others, 1990). Water-quality trends are of interest for at least three reasons: First, trends can improve our understanding of the influence of human activities on water-quality conditions; second, trends can indicate the effectiveness of environmental regulations; and third, trends can provide a warning of additional degradation of water quality in the future. A common approach for determining water-quality trends in streams is to apply statistical tests to historical data; however, historical water-quality data have several limitations. These include lack of data, inconsistent sampling and analytical methods, numerous measurements below detection levels, and questionable accuracy. If historical data are lacking or are inappropriate for statistical trend testing, water-quality records can be partly reconstructed using sediment cores from receiving water bodies such as reservoirs.
The purpose of this fact sheet is to summarize the principal findings documented in a report on water-quality trends in White Rock Creek Basin using dated sediment cores from White Rock Lake (Van Metre and Callender, in press). The study used dated sediment cores to reconstruct water-quality conditions. More specifically, the changes in water quality associated with the watershed’s change from agricultural to urban land use and with the implementation of environmental regulations were identified.