Mission Areas


Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs

Water is one of seven science mission areas of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Water's mission is to collect and disseminate reliable, impartial, and timely information that is needed to understand the Nation's water resources.

Read Science Plan
Filter Total Items: 133
Dog Lake, Yosemite National Park
April 20, 2016

Science to observe, analyze, and understand the movement and condition of surface water.

Image: USGS Scientists Monitor Animas River
April 20, 2016

Science to monitor and evaluate biological, chemical, and environmental factors affecting water quality.

National Groundwater Awareness Week
April 20, 2016

Science to discover and describe the location, condition, and behavior of water in the ground.

The Water Cycle for Schools and Kids
April 14, 2016

Learn about water! As part of the USGS's Water Science School, we have created a water-cycle diagram for schools and "kids" of all ages, from 5-105. Our diagram is available in over 20 languages. We also offer an interactive diagram which...

The ecology teams quantitatively sample fish and mussels semiannually in the spring and fall
April 14, 2016

WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) is a program of the Department of the Interior that focuses on improving water conservation and helping water-resource managers make sound decisions about water use....

Flooded Pier at Assawoman Bay, MD
April 14, 2016

One of the critical roles that USGS personnel play in their day-to-day activities is to respond in a timely and professional manner to floods that can occur at any time of the year and for a variety of reasons. The Flood Science Capability Team examines the cause and effect...

Historic water tower in Chicago.
March 15, 2016

The Water-Use Open Forum allows those involved in water-use data collection, data management, and regulation to communicate about challenges and solutions to water-use data issues, such as data collection, storage, QA/QC, analysis and data dissemination.

Image: A Rainbow Trout Rests Among Substrate in Panther Creek
April 6, 2015

STATUS: Completed

Historically, Idaho has been home to many productive underground and open-pit mining operations. These activities have also produced water quality problems in some areas. One such example is the Blackbird Mine in central Idaho. Following mining operations from the 1940s through the 1960s, Panther Creek and its tributaries were severely damaged by runoff from the...

Mobile River Basin Chart
September 22, 2014

The Mobile River Basin study is one of several NAWQA studies that began in Federal fiscal year 1997 (October 1996). Study planning and design, and analysis of existing data will be done during the first 2 years, which is consistent with all NAWQA studies. After the 2-year planning period, surface- and ground-water and biological data will be collected intensively for 3 years during a high-...

September 10, 2014

STATUS: Completed

To make scientifically based water-resource decisions, elected officials, water managers, and the general public need additional information about the Wood River Valley aquifer system. A crucial part of this information is an improved understanding of the extent, thickness, and hydraulic properties of the aquifer—a hydrogeologic framework....

Sample site for water-quality assessment
September 9, 2014

STATUS: Completed

A component of groundwater availability is whether the water quality is suitable for a particular use. Elected officials, water managers, and the general public have raised concerns about whether water quality has been affected in developed and agricultural areas by wastewater disposal, fertilizer application, and animal waste.

Eastern Ada County, Idaho
September 9, 2014

STATUS: Completed

Groundwater is the primary source of water supply to Ada County’s growing population. Because of a proposed development near Mayfield, the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) initiated the East Ada County Hydrologic Project to improve the scientific understanding of the...

Filter Total Items: 1,472
Year Published: 2016

Climate change and the Delta

Anthropogenic climate change amounts to a rapidly approaching, “new” stressor in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta system. In response to California’s extreme natural hydroclimatic variability, complex water-management systems have been developed, even as the Delta’s natural ecosystems have been largely devastated. Climate change is projected to...

Dettinger, Michael; Anderson, Jamie; Anderson, Michael L.; Brown, Larry R.; Cayan, Daniel; Maurer, Edwin P.
Attribution: Water
Dettinger, M., Anderson, J., Anderson, M., Brown, L., Cayan, D., and Maurer, E., 2016, Climate change and the Delta: San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science, 26 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2016v14iss3art5

Year Published: 2016

Comment on “Reconciliation of the Devils Hole climate record with orbital forcing”

Moseley et al. (Reports, 8 January 2016, p. 165) postulate an increase in dissolved thorium isotope 230Th with depth below the water table as the explanation for the differing ages of Termination II. Flow of geothermal water through the Devils Hole caverns precludes this explanation. Deposition of younger secondary calcite into the initial...

Winograd, Isaac J.
Attribution: Water

Year Published: 2016

Genome sequence of the photoarsenotrophic bacterium Ectothiorhodospira sp. strain BSL-9, isolated from a hypersaline alkaline arsenic-rich extreme environment

The full genome sequence of Ectothiorhodospira sp. strain BSL-9 is reported here. This purple sulfur bacterium encodes an arxA-type arsenite oxidase within the arxB2AB1CD gene island and is capable of carrying out “photoarsenotrophy” anoxygenic photosynthetic arsenite oxidation. Its genome is composed of 3.5 Mb and has approximately 63% G+C...

Hernandez-Maldonado, Jaime; Stoneburner, Brendon; Boren, Alison; Miller, Laurence; Rosen, Michael R.; Oremland, Ronald S.; Saltikov, Chad W
Attribution: Water
Hernandez-Maldonado J, Stoneburner B, Boren A, Miller L, Rosen M, Oremland RS, Saltikov CW. 2016. Genome sequence of the photoarsenotrophic bacterium Ectothiorhodospira sp. strain BSL-9, isolated from a hypersaline alkaline arsenic-rich extreme environment. Genome Announc 4(5):e01139-16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.01139-16

Year Published: 2016

High nitrate concentrations in some Midwest United States streams in 2013 after the 2012 drought

Nitrogen sources in the Mississippi River basin have been linked to degradation of stream ecology and to Gulf of Mexico hypoxia. In 2013, the USGS and the USEPA characterized water quality stressors and ecological conditions in 100 wadeable streams across the midwestern United States. Wet conditions in 2013 followed a severe drought in 2012, a...

VanMetre, Peter; Frey, Jeffrey W.; Musgrove, Marylynn; Nakagaki, Naomi; Qi, Sharon L.; Mahler, Barbara J.; Wieczorek, Michael; Button, Daniel T.
Attribution: Water

Year Published: 2016

Isotope-abundance variations and atomic weights of selected elements: 2016 (IUPAC Technical Report)

There are 63 chemical elements that have two or more isotopes that are used to determine their standard atomic weights. The isotopic abundances and atomic weights of these elements can vary in normal materials due to physical and chemical fractionation processes (not due to radioactive decay). These variations are well known for 12 elements (...

Coplen, Tyler B.; Shrestha, Yesha
Attribution: Water
Coplen, T. B., Shrestha, Y., 2016, Isotope-abundance variations and atomic weights of selected elements: 2016 (IUPAC Technical Report): Pure and Applied Chemistry, v. 88, p. 1203-1224. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/pac-2016-0302

Year Published: 2016

New organic reference materials for hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen stable isotope-ratio measurements: caffeines, n-alkanes, fatty acid methyl esters, glycines, L-valines, polyethylenes, and oils

An international project developed, quality-tested, and determined isotope−δ values of 19 new organic reference materials (RMs) for hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen stable isotope-ratio measurements, in addition to analyzing pre-existing RMs NBS 22 (oil), IAEA-CH-7 (polyethylene foil), and IAEA-600 (caffeine). These new RMs enable users to normalize...

Schimmelmann, Arndt; Qi, Haiping; Coplen, Tyler B.; Brand, Willi A.; Fong, Jon; Meier-Augenstein, Wolfram; Kemp, Helen F.; Toman, Blaza; Ackermann, Annika; Assonov, Sergey; Aerts-Bijma, Anita; Brejcha, Ramona; Chikaraishi, Yoshito; Darwish, Tamim; Elsner, Martin; Gehre, Matthias; Geilmann, Heike; Gröning, Manfred; Hélie, Jean-François; Herrero-Martín, Sara; Meijer, Harro A.J.; Sauer, Peter E.; Sessions, Alex L.; Werner, Roland A.
Attribution: Water

Year Published: 2016

Perspectives on bay-delta science and policy

The State of Bay–Delta Science 2008 highlighted seven emerging perspectives on science and management of the Delta. These perspectives had important effects on policy and legislation concerning management of the Delta ecosystem and water exports. From the collection of papers that make up the State of Bay–Delta Science 2016, we derive another...

Healey, Michael; Dettinger, Michael; Norgaard, Richard
Attribution: Water
Healey, M., Dettinger, M., and Norgaard, R., 2016, Perspectives on Bay-Delta Science and Policy: San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science, 14(4), 25 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2016v14iss4art6

Year Published: 2016

Revisiting human-environment interactions in Chaco Canyon and the American Southwest

Chaco Canyon was the center of a regionally integrated system. Despite a century of research, questions remain about its rise and fall, and the role of human-environment interactions. The answers may lie in current events and new tools and perspectives.

Betancourt, Julio L.; Guiterman, Christopher H.
Attribution: Water
Betancourt, J.L., and Guiterman, C.H., 2017, Revisiting human-environment interactions in Chaco Canyon and the American Southwest. PAGES Magazine, 24 (2) , 64-65, doi: 10.22498/pages.24.2.64

Year Published: 2016

U.S. national categorical mapping of building heights by block group from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data

This dataset is a categorical mapping of estimated mean building heights, by Census block group, in shapefile format for the conterminous United States. The data were derived from the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which collected “first return” (top of canopy and buildings) radar data at 30-m resolution in February, 2000 aboard the Space...

Falcone, James
Attribution: Water

Year Published: 2016

USGS measurements of water quality in San Francisco Bay (CA), 1969-2015

The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a program of water-quality studies in San Francisco Bay (CA) that began in 1969. This Data Release makes available all measurements made from 1969 through 2015. Water-quality constituents include salinity, temperature, light attenuation coefficient, and concentrations of chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen,...

Cloern, James E.; Schraga, Tara
Attribution: Water
Cloern, J.E., and Schraga, T.S., 2016, USGS Measurements of Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (CA), 1969-2015: U. S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7TQ5ZPR.

Year Published: 2016

Updated atomic weights: Time to review our table

Despite common belief, atomic weights are not necessarily constants of nature. Scientists’ ability to measure these values is regularly improving, so one would expect that the accuracy of these values should be improving with time. It is the task of the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) Commission on Isotopic Abundances and...

Coplen, Tyler B.; Meyers, Fabienne; Holden, Norman E.
Attribution: Water
Coplen, T. B., Meyers, F., Holden, N. E. 2016, Updated Atomic Weights: Time to Review Our Table. Chemistry Views Magazine, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chemv.201600015

Year Published: 2016

Watershed boundaries for the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Network

The National Water Quality Network (NWQN) for Rivers and Streams includes 113 surface-water river and stream sites monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Program (NWQP). The NWQN represents the consolidation of four historical national networks: the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project, the USGS...

Baker, Nancy T.
Attribution: Water
Baker, N.T., 2016, Watershed Boundaries for the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Network: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7SF2TBD.

The USGS produces many types of multimedia products. Use the links below to browse our offerings of photograph galleries, podcasts and sound files, videos, aerial photos, and posters related to water. The USGS Newsroom has a Web page that highlights the main collection of multimedia products.

Filter Total Items: 788
Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
January 9, 2017
A U.S. Geological Survey field crew uses an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler to measure water velocity on the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada.
Bath Creek, Bath County, VA
2016 (approx.)
Bath Creek, upstream of Blowing Springs Campground, George Washington National Forest, Bath County, VA.
Photo of USGS research boat conducting science on the Great Salt Lake.
2016 (approx.)
USGS scientist Robert Baskin takes a boat out on the Great Salt Lake to conduct research. Baskin is being awarded with a 2016 Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology. Gov. Gary R. Herbert will present awards to 11 individuals and one company at the 30th anniversary awards dinner on January 18, 2017. Baskin is best known for his innovative research on Great Salt Lake, collaborating with the...
2016 (approx.)
This video provides an overview of the USGS Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool. The Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST) is an Excel-based tool for identification of geophysical methods most likely to be appropriate for project goals and site conditions. We envision the FRGT-MST: 1) equipping remediation professionals with a tool to understand...
2016 (approx.)
Sometimes the whole is actually *less* than the sum of its parts. In this case, it turns out that cadmium and zinc, when combined in ratios like you'd see in the environment, they are actually less toxic to aquatic insects than adding up their individual toxicities. Read more: http://on.doi.gov/2dVvUtj Video shows caddisflies, one of the insects studied in the research, in an artificial stream...
2016 (approx.)
This video demonstrates how to measure total well depth below land surface using a weighted, graduated steel tape.
two men standing near a well. Truck-mounted rig and well head visible.
2016 (approx.)
JJ Thordsen (USGS) and a wireline operator retrieving downhole vacuum sampler from a characterization well near a CO2 injection well at Citronelle oil field, Alabama.
Water flowing from culvert
2016 (approx.)
Hampton Roads WQMP Image 1. Water flowing from a culvert.
2016 (approx.)
This video will provide a brief history and purpose for one of the oldest streamgages in Indiana. The gage is at the Wabash River at Lafayette, Indiana. The site number is 03335500. This video was produced at the request of the West Lafayette Parks Department where this historic gage is located. A QR code is displayed on an interpretive plaque next to the gage which is located in a high profile...
Before and after pictures - Hurricane Rita and Holly Beach, Louisiana, USA
December 14, 2016
Hurricanes can cause severe beach erosion —​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​—​​​​​​​— The Storm-Induced Coastal Change Hazards component of the of the National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project focuses on understanding the magnitude and variability of extreme...
Filter Total Items: 341
Cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Okeechobee, FL (July 2016)
October 24, 2016

Building knowledge to protect ecological and human health

Hydrologic technician Samantha Kephart.points out a high water mark
October 21, 2016

The heavy rains and storm surge Hurricane Matthew produced caused severe flooding in many parts of the south east, resulting in almost 40 peak flood records. As the flood waters continue to recede from some affected areas, the U. S. Geological Survey will continue its efforts to record this historic flooding. Click here to learn more about the work the USGS has completed for Hurricane Matthew.

Photo of scientists testing where methane goes once released into streams
October 17, 2016

First application shows majority of methane in study stream emitted to the atmosphere. 

USGS logo
October 17, 2016

A new study offers the most sophisticated analyses to date on how Los Angeles-area groundwater supplies are replenished. The analyses provide water managers with a clearer understanding of the sources and amount of available groundwater in the region – information that is important for planning and management of the vital resource.

Baltimore Harbor Water Wheel (aka “Mr. Trash Wheel”)
October 14, 2016

Online sites will provide the first real-time, user-friendly Inner Harbor water information

Photo of Flooding on Mississippi River in December 2015
October 13, 2016

An assessment of the flooding that occurred in the Meramec River Basin from December 2015–January 2016 is available in a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The report includes peak stages and streamflows, historical comparisons and flood-frequency statistics from the record flood.

This picture shows Spring Lake, NC, hit by flooding twice in two weeks.
October 12, 2016

Reporters: Want more information? Please contact Jeanne Robbins, jrobbins@usgs.gov, 919-571-4017 

Photo showing the Great Basin area
October 11, 2016

Large precipitation events that occur about every 10 years are a critical source of recharge for replenishing groundwater resources, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.

USGS logo
October 9, 2016

Reporters: Do you want to accompany a USGS field crew as they measure flooding or retrieve storm-tide sensors?

- In North Carolina, contact Jeanne Robbins, jrobbins@usgs.gov, 919-571-4017 

- In South Carolina, contact John Shelton, jmshelto@usgs.gov, 803-767-5542

- In Georgia contact Brian McCallum, bemccall@usgs.gov, 678- 924-6672

- In Florida contact Richard Kane, rkane@usgs.gov, 813-918-1275

This is a photograph of a storm-tide sensor used by the USGS to measure storm surge.
October 8, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey is using many forms of technology to track and document Hurricane Matthew’s effects on the eastern seaboard. Here is an in-depth look at one of those tools, the storm-tide sensor.

To learn about storm sensors and see their location, explore the USGS Coastal Change Hazard Portal, or see satellite imagery before and after the storm, visit the USGS Hurricane Matthew page.