Mission Areas

National Water Quality Program

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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. 
December 7, 2017

This story was updated on December 7, 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.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge crystalline-rock aquifers, which includes parts of 11 states across the contiguous United States, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system, which includes parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Snow-capped Wasatch Mountains
Date Published: February 15, 2018
Status: Active

The Great Salt Lake Basins (GRSL) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) was one of 51 study units across the country. Started in 1998, the long-term goals of this program were to describe the status and trends in the quality of a large, representative part of the Nation's surface- and ground-water resources, and to provide a sound, scientific understanding of the primary factors affecting...

Tidal marsh, Pacific Northwest
Date Published: January 23, 2018
Status: Active

SPARROW can be used to relate water-quality data to landscape characteristics, such as natural properties and human activities

Contacts: Daniel R Wise
Collecting aquatic invertibrates
Date Published: April 25, 2017
Status: Active

The Arizona Water Science Center collects water-quality data from stream and aquifer sites in networks that are part of the National Water-Quality Program (NWQP) and the National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN).

Flow diagram of relationships between watershed stressors and aquatic health
Date Published: April 12, 2017

How is stream ecology affected by chemical and physical stressors in small streams? The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is addressing this question through studies of relations between stressors and stream ecology across large regions of the United States.

Regional Stream Quality Assessments  ||  ...

Surface runoff flows from a cornfield in the Sugar Creek basin IN
Date Published: March 10, 2017
Status: Active

Eutrophication, or excess nutrients in streams, is typically one of the top reasons that a stream is listed as impaired on the 303(d) list as part of the Clean Water Act. How nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are transported to streams and groundwater greatly affects the best management plan to keep them on fields and out of streams and groundwater. Likewise, environmental managers...

Stalker Creek, Idaho, in summer
Date Published: January 1, 2017
Status: Completed

Nutrient enrichment can affect the ecological health of a stream. For example, excessive aquatic plant growth caused by increased nutrients can reduce dissolved oxygen necessary for other aquatic life. Topics of particular interest in this study area include:

seasonal patterns among nutrients, flows, algae and plants in streams

rooted aquatic plant vs. algae growth

stream...

Fork of White, Great, and Little Miami Rivers (WHMI)
Date Published: November 4, 2016

The White, Great, and Little Miami River (WHMI) Basins  in Indiana and Ohio comprise one of more than 50 study units that are part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The long-term goals of the NAWQA program are to describe the water-quality status and trends in a large representative part of the Nation's surface-water and groundwater resources and to provide a sound...

Microbiological Monitoring Of Groundwater Used As A Source Of Drinking Water (NAWQA Cycle 3)
Date Published: November 4, 2016

The National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) has been sampling public supply wells and domestic wells across the U.S. since 2013 for a broad suite of microbiological indicators including total coliform s , E. coli, enterococci, F-specific coliphage , somatic coliphage, and aerobic endospores. USGS scientists in Ohio and Massachusetts are collaborating on the analysis of...

Bridge over river in late summer, trees just starting to change to fall colors.
Date Published: 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.

Contacts: Lori Fuller
USGS Hydrologist working in winter on frozen river collecting samples.
Date Published: 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...

Contacts: Lori Fuller
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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.

Filter Total Items: 16
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

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.

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. Geological Survey (USGS), academic institutions, and State and local agencies have identified coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat as a major...

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.

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.

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...

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

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.

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

Year Published: 2013

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

An isotope-dilution quantification method was developed for 20 natural and synthetic steroid hormones and additional compounds in filtered and unfiltered water. Deuterium- or carbon-13-labeled isotope-dilution standards (IDSs) are added to the water sample, which is passed through an octadecylsilyl solid-phase extraction (SPE) disk. Following...

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.

Year Published: 2012

Steroid hormone runoff from agricultural test plots applied with municipal biosolids

The potential presence of steroid hormones in runoff from sites where biosolids have been used as agricultural fertilizers is an environmental concern. A study was conducted to assess the potential for runoff of seventeen different hormones and two sterols, including androgens, estrogens, and progestogens from agricultural test plots. The field...

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

Year Published: 2012

Chiral pesticides: Identification, description, and environmental implications

Anthropogenic chemicals, including pesticides, are a major source of contamination and pollution in the environment. Pesticides have many positive uses: increased food production, decreased damage to crops and structures, reduced disease vector populations, and more. Nevertheless, pesticide exposure can pose risks to humans and the environment, so...

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.

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

Radioactive isotopes I-131, Cs-134, or Cs-137, products of uranium fission, were measured at approximately 20 percent of 167 sampled National Atmospheric Deposition Program monitoring sites in North America (primarily in the contiguous United States and Alaska) after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant incident on March 12, 2011. Samples...

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.

Year Published: 2011

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

Antidepressant pharmaceuticals have been reported in wastewater effluent at the nanogram to low microgram-per-liter range, and include bupropion (BUP), fluoxetine (FLX), sertraline (SER), and venlafaxine (VEN). To assess the effects of antidepressants on reproductive anatomy, physiology, and behavior, adult male fathead minnows (Pimeplwles...

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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USGS
January 25, 2018

 

What’s New: A new version of the SPARROW code is being developed in the R programming language. The advantage of R is that it is non-proprietary and does not require a license or software cost. The R – SPARROW code is now being completed and should be available early in CY18. Stay Tuned.

Filter Total Items: 42
2017 (approx.)

USGS “supergages” are very complex. Continuous concentrations of nutrients and streamflow are measured at supergages and the information is available to the public in real-time. A network of supergages are very important in the Mississippi River Basin for assessing the changes in the amount of nutrients that are transported to the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. By monitoring and analyzing the nutrient data from a regional network of supergages we are taking the first steps in understanding how actions by farmers, industry and governments on the landscape are changing the conditions in the river and the actions we may need to take to preserve this vital resource for generations to come.
 

Satellite showing 3 different solar energy locations
2017 (approx.)

Solar energy is booming worldwide, and these Landsat 8 images show three large solar energy farms.

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. 

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Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

This story was updated on December 7, 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.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge crystalline-rock aquifers, which includes parts of 11 states across the contiguous United States, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer system, which includes parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Glacial aquifer system, which includes parts of 25 states across the northern contiguous United States, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
December 7, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Rio Grande aquifer system, which includes parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Exterior of a municipal water pumping station
December 6, 2017

Oxygen levels, dissolved minerals among factors responsible for high concentrations of radium in untreated water from aquifer that underlies six states

Agricultural Stream in Indiana in foreground with barn and silos in background
August 9, 2017

One hundred small streams in the Midwest were tested for pesticides during the 2013 growing season and found to contain, on average, 52 pesticides per stream

A submarine-ground-water-discharge site at Florida State University's Marine Lab at just after sunset
June 20, 2017

Larger-than-average low and no oxygen area may affect the region’s shrimp fisheries

Two men collecting groundwater samples at a public well in the middle of a grassy field in Texas
May 31, 2017

Decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas

Bath Creek, Bath County, VA
April 4, 2017

USGS provides a long-term look at changes in the quality of our nation’s rivers and streams

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.