Mission Areas

National Water Quality Program

Programs L2 Landing Page

The National Water Quality Program provides an understanding of water-quality conditions; whether conditions are getting better or worse over time; and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.

More about this program

Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers

Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers

During the 20 years from 1992 to 2011, pesticides were found at concentrations that exceeded aquatic-life benchmarks in many rivers and streams that drain agricultural, urban, and mixed-land use watersheds.

Details

News

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey is near the midpoint of a complex undertaking to survey the quality of the nation’s largest drinking-water resource. From 2012 – 2023, the USGS is assessing groundwater throughout the country through extensive sampling. The latest results from five regional aquifers have become available today.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers, which include parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and adjacent states, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Coastal Lowlands aquifer system in the southeastern United States is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Surface runoff flows from a cornfield in the Sugar Creek basin IN
March 10, 2017

While nutrients are essential to the development, health and diversity of plants and animals in surface waters, excessive inputs of nutrients into streams have potential human-health, economic, and ecological consequences. ...

a specimen found on a rock in the river
December 19, 2016

Although there are ways of developing causal relationships between stressors and aquatic community responses without experimentation; some argue that experimental manipulation under controlled conditions is both critical and necessary to establish causation. Single species toxicity tests are the gold standard for developing toxicant biological response relationships however these tests are...

Bridge over river in late summer, trees just starting to change to fall colors.
September 21, 2016

The USGS implemented the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in 1991 to develop long-term consistent and comparable information on streams, rivers, groundwater, and aquatic systems in support of national, regional, State, and local information needs and decisions related to water-quality management and policy.

USGS Hydrologist working in winter on frozen river collecting samples.
September 21, 2016

As part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program the USGS MIWSC operates a stream gage and routinely collects water quality samples at the Clinton River at Sterling Heights, MI. station. Water is analyzed for sediment, nutrients, major ions, and a suite of 271 different pesticides. Information obtained...

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Screenshot of GAMACTT web application.
March 24, 2017

Groundwater Age Mixtures and Contaminant Trends Tool

Explore the effects of basic aquifer properties and well configurations on groundwater age mixtures in groundwater discharge and on contaminant trends from varying nonpoint-source contaminant input scenarios.

USGS Sediment Data Portal
March 24, 2017

USGS Sediment Data Portal

Identify, access, and interpret USGS discrete and (or) daily suspended sediment data suspended-sediment and related data. The U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System (NWIS) is the original source for all suspended-sediment data provided in the portal.

Screenshot of the Water Quality Portal
March 24, 2017

Water Quality Data Portal

The Water Quality Portal (WQP) is a cooperative service sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC). It serves data collected by over 400 state, federal, tribal, and local agencies.

WaterQuality Watch - View real-time water-quality data using maps, graphs, and tables.
March 24, 2017

WaterQualityWatch

WaterQualityWatch provides access to USGS real time water-quality data collected in surface waters throughout the United States. Measurements include water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and nitrate. 

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) logo
March 24, 2017

National Atmospheric Deposition Program Animated Maps

View annual deposition maps of H+, sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, and total inorganice nitrogen across the Nation beginning in 1985.

USGS Scientist collecting macroinvertebrates
March 24, 2017

BioData – Aquatic Bioassessment Data

Discover over 17,000 fish, macroinvertebrate, and algal samples and physical habitat data collected at over 2,000 sites by the USGS since 1991.

Pesticide Levels in Streams and Rivers
February 10, 2017

Predict Pesticide Levels in Streams and Rivers--Where is water quality at Risk?​

Use the mapping tool to predict concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the Nation and identify which streams are most likely to exceed water-quality guidelines for human health or aquatic life.​

Map showing regions of the country that are included in the tool for Tracking the Source and Quantity of Nutrients to the Nation
January 17, 2017

Tracking the Source and Quantity of Nutrients to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes

Access maps of watershed nutrient contributions to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes

Pesticide Use Map clip
January 17, 2017

Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use

View the geographic distribution of estimated use of numerous pesticides on agricultural land in the conterminous United States. A graph accompanies each map, which shows annual national use by major crop for the mapped pesticide for each year during the period. 

Water quality sampling, Sope Creek near Atlanta, Georgia.
January 17, 2017

​Tracking Water Quality of the Nation's Rivers and Streams

An online graphical data tool provides annual summaries of nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads and streamflow information for 106 sites monitored as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Network for Streams and Rivers.

Figure of the main page of the Great Lakes SPARROW Mapper, 2002
April 6, 2016

Great Lakes SPARROW Mapper, 2002

This mapper displays SPARROW nutrient load and yield data specifically for U.S. tributaries to the Great Lakes. The results are based on the SPARROW models developed for the Great Lakes, Ohio, Upper Mississippi, Red River Basins (MRB3). Modeling results can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet or a geospatial dataset.

Figure showing the main page of the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) SPARROW Mapper, 2002
April 5, 2016

Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) SPARROW Mapper, 2002

The mapper displays SPARROW nutrient load and yield data and the importance of various nutrient sources for the MARB, given nutrient inputs similar to 2002. Rankings can be shown by major watershed, state, HUC8, tributary, and catchment. Nutrient data can be explored using maps and interactive graphs and tables. Modeling results can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet or a geospatial dataset.

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Challenges with secondary use of multi-source water-quality data in the United States
Year Published: 2017

Challenges with secondary use of multi-source water-quality data in the United States

Combining water-quality data from multiple sources can help counterbalance diminishing resources for stream monitoring in the United States and lead to important regional and national insights that would not otherwise be possible. Individual monitoring organizations understand their own data very well, but issues can arise when their data are...

Sprague, Lori A.; Oelsner, Gretchen P.; Argue, Denise M.
Sprague, L.A., Oelsner, G.P., and Argue, D.M., 2017, Challenges with secondary use of multi-source water-quality data in the United States. Water Research: vol. 110, p 252-261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2016.12.024
The importance of base flow in sustaining surface water flow in the Upper Colorado River Basin
Year Published: 2016

The importance of base flow in sustaining surface water flow in the Upper Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River has been identified as the most overallocated river in the world. Considering predicted future imbalances between water supply and demand and the growing recognition that base flow (a proxy for groundwater discharge to streams) is critical for sustaining flow in streams and rivers, there is a need to develop methods to better...

Miller, Matthew P.; Buto, Susan G.; Susong, David D.; Rumsey, Christine
Miller, M. P., S. G. Buto, D. D. Susong, and C. A. Rumsey (2016), The importance of base flow in sustaining surface water flow in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Water Resour. Res., 52, doi:10.1002/2015WR017963.
Coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat—Potential concerns for human health and aquatic life
Year Published: 2016

Coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat—Potential concerns for human health and aquatic life

Introduction Sealcoat is the black, viscous liquid sprayed or painted on many asphalt parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds to protect and enhance the appearance of the underlying asphalt. Studies by the U.S.

Mahler, Barbara J.; Woodside, Michael D.; Van Metre, Peter C.
Mahler, B.J., Woodside, M.D., and VanMetre, P.C., 2016, Coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat—Potential concerns for human health and aquatic life: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3017, 6 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163017.
Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15
Year Published: 2016

Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the east-central part of the Black Hills area of South Dakota and is challenged to provide drinking water to about 3 million annual visitors and year-round park personnel. An environmental concern to water resources within Mount Rushmore National Memorial has been the annual aerial fireworks display...

Hoogestraat, Galen K.; Rowe, Barbara L.
Hoogestraat, G.K., and Rowe, B.L., 2016, Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5030, 29 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165030.
Effect of variable annual precipitation and nutrient input on nitrogen and phosphorus transport from two Midwestern agricultural watersheds
Year Published: 2016

Effect of variable annual precipitation and nutrient input on nitrogen and phosphorus transport from two Midwestern agricultural watersheds

Precipitation patterns and nutrient inputs affect transport of nitrate (NO3-N) and phosphorus (TP) from Midwest watersheds. Nutrient concentrations and yields from two subsurface-drained watersheds, the Little Cobb River (LCR) in southern Minnesota and the South Fork Iowa River (SFIR) in northern Iowa, were evaluated during 1996–2007 to document...

Kalkhoff, Stephen J.; Hubbard, Laura E.; Tomer, Mark D.; James, D.E.
S.J.Kalkhoff, L.E. Hubbard, M.D. Tomer , and D.E. James, 2016, Effect of variable annual precipitation and nutrient input on nitrogen and phosphorus transport from two Midwestern agricultural watersheds: Science of the Total Environment, vol. 559, pp. 53-62
Quantifying watershed-scale groundwater loading and in-stream fate of nitrate using high-frequency water quality data
Year Published: 2016

Quantifying watershed-scale groundwater loading and in-stream fate of nitrate using high-frequency water quality data

We describe a new approach that couples hydrograph separation with high-frequency nitrate data to quantify time-variable groundwater and runoff loading of nitrate to streams, and the net in-stream fate of nitrate at the watershed-scale. The approach was applied at three sites spanning gradients in watershed size and land use in the Chesapeake Bay...

Miller, Matthew P.; Tesoriero, Anthony J.; Capel, Paul D.; Pellerin, Brian A.; Hyer, Kenneth E.; Burns, Douglas A.
Long-term changes in nitrate conditions over the 20th century in two Midwestern Corn Belt streams
Year Published: 2015

Long-term changes in nitrate conditions over the 20th century in two Midwestern Corn Belt streams

Long-term changes in nitrate concentration and flux between the middle of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century were estimated for the Des Moines River and the Middle Illinois River, two Midwestern Corn Belt streams, using a novel weighted regression approach that is able to detect subtle changes in solute transport behavior...

Kelly, Valerie J.; Stets, Edward G.; Crawford, Charles G.
Kelly, V., Stets, E.G., Crawford, C., 2015, Long-term changes in nitrate conditions over the 20th century in two Midwestern Corn Belt streams: Journal of Hydrology, v. 525, p. 559-571. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.03.062
An isotope-dilution standard GC/MS/MS method for steroid hormones in water
Year Published: 2013

An isotope-dilution standard GC/MS/MS method for steroid hormones in water

Foreman, William T.; Gray, James L.; ReVello, Rhiannon C.; Lindley, Chris E.; Losche, Scott A.
An isotope-dilution standard GC/MS/MS method for steroid hormones in water; 2013; Book chapter; Book; Evaluating Veterinary Pharmaceutical Behavior in the Environment: ACS Symposium Series; Foreman, William T.; Gray, James L.; ReVello, Rhiannon C.; Lindley, Chris E.; Losche, Scott A.
Steroid hormone runoff from agricultural test plots applied with municipal biosolids
Year Published: 2012

Steroid hormone runoff from agricultural test plots applied with municipal biosolids

Yang, Yun-Ya; Gray, James L.; Furlong, Edward T.; Davis, Jessica G.; ReVollo, Rhiannon C.; Borch, Thomas
Steroid hormone runoff from agricultural test plots applied with municipal biosolids; 2012; Article; Journal; Environmental Science and Technology; Yang, Yun-Ya ; Gray, James L.; Furlong, Edward T.; Davis, Jessica G.; ReVollo, Rhiannon C.; Borch, Thomas
Chiral pesticides: Identification, description, and environmental implications
Year Published: 2012

Chiral pesticides: Identification, description, and environmental implications

Ulrich, Elin M.; Morrison, Candice N.; Goldsmith, Michael R.; Foreman, William T.
Chiral pesticides: Identification, description, and environmental implications; 2012; Article; Journal; Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; Ulrich, Elin M.; Morrison, Candice N.; Goldsmith, Michael R.; Foreman, William T.
Fission products in National Atmospheric Deposition Program—Wet deposition samples prior to and following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant incident, March 8?April 5, 2011
Year Published: 2012

Fission products in National Atmospheric Deposition Program—Wet deposition samples prior to and following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant incident, March 8?April 5, 2011

Wetherbee, Gregory A.; Debey, Timothy M.; Nilles, Mark A.; Lehmann, Christopher M.B.; Gay, David A.
Fission products in National Atmospheric Deposition Program—Wet deposition samples prior to and following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant incident, March 8?April 5, 2011; 2012; OFR; 2011-1277; Wetherbee, Gregory A. ; Debey, Timothy M. ; Nilles, Mark A. ; Lehmann, Christopher M.B.; Gay, David A.
Selective uptake and biological consequences of environmentally relevant antidepressant pharmaceutical exposures on male fathead minnows
Year Published: 2011

Selective uptake and biological consequences of environmentally relevant antidepressant pharmaceutical exposures on male fathead minnows

Schultz, Melissa M.; Painter, Meghan M.; Bartell, Stephen E.; Logue, Amanda; Furlong, Edward T.; Werner, Stephen L.; Schoenfuss, Heiko L.
Selective uptake and biological consequences of environmentally relevant antidepressant pharmaceutical exposures on male fathead minnows; 2011; Article; Journal; Aquatic Toxicology; Schultz, Melissa M.; Painter, Meghan M.; Bartell, Stephen E.; Logue, Amanda ; Furlong, Edward T.; Werner, Stephen L.; Schoenfuss, Heiko L.
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Mt. Lyell and view of Vogelsang Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1913
2016 (approx.)

Mt. Lyell and view of Vogelsang Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1913

USGS historical photogrpah by Richard B. Dole, 1913.

Photo of USGS scientists prepare water-quality instruments before going out on the Great Salt Lake.
August 9, 2016

USGS scientists prepare water-quality instruments before going out on the Great Salt Lake. USGS scientists are conducting a study to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

 

Photo of USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake.
August 9, 2016

USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake.
August 9, 2016

USGS scientists conducting a study on the Great Salt Lake to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of USGS scientists measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
August 8, 2016

USGS scientists Bryan Downing, Mike Freeman and Katy O'Donnell measure nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah. USGS scientists are conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of a USGS scientist measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
August 8, 2016

USGS scientist Mike Freeman measures nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah. USGS scientists are conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of USGS scientists measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
August 8, 2016

USGS scientists Christopher L. Shope, Bryan Downing, Katy O'Donnell and Mike Freeman measure nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah. USGS scientists are conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of USGS water-quality instruments to measure nutrient levels
August 8, 2016

USGS scientists use multiple high-frequency water quality instruments contained in a cage to measure nutrients and algal changes in surface water. Scientists are conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo of USGS scientists measuring nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah.
August 8, 2016

USGS scientists Christopher L. Shope, Bryan Downing, Katy O'Donnell and Mike Freeman measure nutrient levels in Goggin Drain, Utah. USGS scientists are conducting an experimental study on two Utah water bodies to gain a better understanding of nutrient levels, which could help determine how to best manage algal bloom outbreaks.

Photo showing a corn farm in northeast Iowa.
2016 (approx.)

A corn farm in northeast Iowa. A new USGS report shows that drought periods followed by rainfall caused nitrate levels to increase to the highest ever measured in some Midwest streams during a 2013 study. 

Photo showing a small stream flowing through corn fields in northern Indiana.
2016 (approx.)

A small stream flows through corn fields in northern Indiana. A new USGS report shows that drought periods followed by rainfall caused nitrate levels to increase to the highest ever measured in some Midwest streams during a 2013 study. 

Photo showing cows feeding on a farm in southern Wisconsin. 
2016 (approx.)

Cows feed on a farm in southern Wisconsin. A new USGS report shows that drought periods followed by rainfall caused nitrate levels to increase to the highest ever measured in some Midwest streams during a 2013 study. 

Filter Total Items: 39
Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey is near the midpoint of a complex undertaking to survey the quality of the nation’s largest drinking-water resource. From 2012 – 2023, the USGS is assessing groundwater throughout the country through extensive sampling. The latest results from five regional aquifers have become available today.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers, which include parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and adjacent states, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Coastal Lowlands aquifer system in the southeastern United States is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain aquifer system in the eastern United States is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Southeastern Coastal Plain aquifer system is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the combined Valley and Ridge and Piedmont and Blue Ridge aquifers in the eastern United States is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

View of rapids on the ​Ocoee River in Tennessee with green trees in the background
January 9, 2017

Challenges remain in combining data from multiple organizations

Mt. Lyell and view of Vogelsang Pass, Yosemite National Park, 1913
August 25, 2016

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, 1916-2016

 

Image shows a man suspended over a brown river with red cliffs in the background
August 15, 2016

Feeling salty over our bad jokes? Then this EarthWord’s for you!