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
Our surface water, groundwater, and aquatic ecosystems are priceless resources, used by people across the Nation for drinking, irrigation, industry, and recreation. The National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project is a leading source of scientific data and knowledge for development of science-based policies and management strategies to improve and protect our water resources.
SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) models estimate the amount of a contaminant transported from inland watersheds to larger water bodies by linking monitoring data with information on watershed characteristics and contaminant sources. Explore relations between human activities, natural processes, and contaminant transport using interactive Mappers.
Wherever you live, there’s a creek or stream near you. The eighty percent of Americans who live in metropolitan areas are often unaware of the network of urban creeks—many teeming with life—that weaves through our cities and town. Nowhere are the environmental changes associated with urban development more evident than in urban streams.
From chloride to corrosivity, from pesticides to PAHs, find the most recent National Water Quality Program (NWQP) science on these topics and effects on surface water, groundwater, and ecology. Informative web pages provide an overview and links to related web pages, publications, maps, news, and data.
Every day, millions of gallons of groundwater are pumped to supply drinking water for about 140 million people, almost one-half of the Nation’s population. Learn about the quality and availability of groundwater for drinking, where and why groundwater quality is degraded, and where groundwater quality is changing.
Water and the chemicals it contains are constantly being exchanged between the land surface and the subsurface. Surface water seeps into the ground and recharges the underlying aquifer—groundwater discharges to the surface and supplies the stream with baseflow. USGS Integrated Watershed Studies assess these exchanges and their effect on surface-water and groundwater quality and quantity.
All natural waters contain some dissolved solids (salinity) from contact with soils, rocks, and other natural materials. Too much, though, and dissolved solids can impair water use. Unpleasant taste, high water-treatment costs, mineral accumulation in plumbing, staining, corrosion, and restricted use for irrigation are among the problems associated with elevated concentrations of dissolved...
Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill pests, including insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), and fungi (fungicides). The USGS assesses the occurrence and behavior of pesticides in streams, lakes, and groundwater and the potential for pesticides to contaminate our drinking-water supplies or harm aquatic ecosystems.
Corrosivity describes how aggressive water is at corroding pipes and fixtures. Corrosive water can cause lead and copper in pipes to leach into drinking water and can eventually cause leaks in plumbing. Surface water and groundwater, both sources of drinking water, can potentially be corrosive.
Are you among the more than 100 million people in the U.S. who relies on a public-supply well for your drinking water? Although the quality of finished drinking water from public water systems is regulated by the EPA, long-term protection and management of the raw groundwater tapped by public-supply wells requires an understanding of the occurrence of contaminants in this invisible, vital...
More than 43 million people—about 15 percent of the U.S. population—rely on domestic (private) wells as their source of drinking water. The quality and safety of water from domestic wells are not regulated by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act or, in most cases, by state laws. Instead, individual homeowners are responsible for maintaining their domestic well systems and for monitoring water...
Humans, just like aquatic organisms, need water. Flood control, urban infrastructure, irrigation of agriculture, and myriad other ways we manage water affect the natural flow of streams and rivers. How do the ways we manage land and water affect the natural patterns of streamflow that ecosystems depend on?
Nutrient and pesticide data collected from the USGS National Water Quality Network and previous networks, 1963-2017
The National Water Quality Network (NWQN) for Rivers and Streams includes 111 surface-water river and stream sites monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Program, National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project. The NWQN includes 20 large river coastal sites, 41 large river inland sites, 30 wadeable stream reference sites, 10 wadeable stream urban sites, and 10...
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.
Third-party performance assessment data encompassing the time period of analysis of groundwater samples collected for hormones and pharmaceuticals by the National Water-Quality Assessment Project in 2013-15
This data set includes sample information and results for third-party performance assessment samples analyzed for hormones and pharmaceuticals during the same general time period as environmental samples collected by the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project for a study of groundwater resources used for drinking-water supply across the United States, 2013 through 2015. Hormone and...
Dataset used for estimating catchment-level nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use from commercial fertilizer sales data for the Conterminous U.S., 2012
This dataset includes all of the variables that were used in predictive models to estimate nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use from commercial fertilizer sales data at the catchment/county level for the Conterminous U.S. for the year 2012. The dataset includes model input at the catchment/county level. A companion USGS Scientific Investigations Report describes the methods and subsequent...
Laboratory Quality-Control Data Associated with Groundwater Samples Collected for Hormones and Pharmaceuticals by the National Water-Quality Assessment Project in 2013-15
This data set includes results for hormone and pharmaceutical compounds analyzed from 2012 through 2016 in laboratory quality-control samples that are associated with environmental samples collected by the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project during 2013 through 2015 for a study of groundwater resources used for drinking-water supply across the United States. Hormone and...
Environmental and Quality-Control Data Collected by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Project for Hormones and Pharmaceuticals in Groundwater Used as a Source of Drinking Water Across the United States, 2013-15
This data set includes results for hormone and pharmaceutical compounds analyzed in environmental and quality-control samples collected by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Project during 2013 through 2015 for a study of groundwater resources used for drinking-water supply across the United States. This data release includes: Table 1. Site information and ancillary data (including...
Catchment-Level Predictions of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Fertilizer Use from Commercial Fertilizer Sales Data for the Conterminous U.S., 2012
This dataset contains catchment-level estimates of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use, for agricultural lands, for the conterminous U.S., for 2012. An approach was developed to relate farm commercial fertilizer sales data from the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) to a set of explanatory variables using spatially-referenced modeling methods. Separate models for...
Soil thermal properties at recently burned and long-unburned boreal forest areas in interior Alaska, USA
This Data Release presents soil thermal properties of volumetric specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity for soil samples from six sites in interior Alaska USA. Volumetric specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity data were estimated using a dual needle heat pulse probe. Soil thermal property data were collected across the full spectrum of soil saturations from fully saturated to...
Langelier Saturation Indices Computed for U.S. Groundwater, 1991-2015; Water Well Data and Characteristic Values for States
The occurrence of metals, such as lead and copper, in household drinking supplies can often be a result of the corrosion of pipes and joints in water distribution systems. One measure of the potential for water to cause corrosion is the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI).
Corrosivity index and streamflow datasets used to evaluate trends in potentially corrosive source waters in the Nation's streams and rivers
Changes in water corrosivity from 84 river sites were investigated using long-term data sets. As part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) project of the National Water-Quality Program, long-term water-quality data from multiple sites across the Conterminous United States have been used to analyze seasonal- and flow-related variability and trends in the CSMR and LR indices.
The Regional Stream Quality Assessment is a part of the National Water Quality Assessment project. The Results Viewer allows the user to visualize the water quality factors assessed, including total nitrogen, total phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, pesticide toxicity, sediment contaminants, pyrethroid pesticides, riparian buffers, fine sediment, and fish and macroinvertebrate...
The Regional Stream Quality Assessment (RSQA) is a part of the National Water Quality Assessment project. The data downloader provides access to the water quality data that were assessed as a part of the RSQA study by region, state, and county.
An exploratory Bayesian network for estimating the magnitudes and uncertainties of selected water-quality parameters at streamgage 03374100 White River at Hazleton, Indiana, from partially observed data
An exploratory discrete Bayesian network (BN) was developed to assess the potential of this type of model for estimating the magnitudes and uncertainties of an arbitrary subset of unmeasured water-quality parameters given the measured complement of parameters historically measured at a U.S. Geological Survey streamgage. Water-quality data for 27...Holtschlag, David J.
Understanding the influence of nutrients on stream ecosystems in agricultural landscapes
Sustaining the quality of the Nation’s water resources and the health of our diverse ecosystems depends on the availability of sound water-resources data and information to develop effective, science-based policies. Effective management of water resources also brings more certainty and efficiency to important economic sectors. Taken together,...Munn, Mark D.; Frey, Jeffrey W.; Tesoriero, Anthony J.; Black, Robert W.; Duff, John H.; Lee, Kathy E.; Maret, Terry R.; Mebane, Christopher A.; Waite, Ian R.; Zelt, Ronald B.
General introduction for the “National Field Manual for the Collection of Water-Quality Data”
BackgroundAs part of its mission, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collects data to assess the quality of our Nation’s water resources. A high degree of reliability and standardization of these data are paramount to fulfilling this mission. Documentation of nationally accepted methods used by USGS personnel serves to maintain consistency and...
Estimating discharge and nonpoint source nitrate loading to streams from three end‐member pathways using high‐frequency water quality data
The myriad hydrologic and biogeochemical processes taking place in watersheds occurring across space and time are integrated and reflected in the quantity and quality of water in streams and rivers. Collection of high‐frequency water quality data with sensors in surface waters provides new opportunities to disentangle these processes and quantify...Miller, Matthew P.; Tesoriero, Anthony J.; Hood, Krista; Terziotti, Silvia; Wolock, David M.
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.
Metformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the southeastern United States
Pharmaceutical contaminants are growing aquatic-health concerns and largely attributed to wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) discharges. Five biweekly water samples from 59 small Piedmont (United States) streams were analyzed for 108 pharmaceuticals and degradates using high-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. The...Bradley, Paul M.; Journey, Celeste A.; Button, Daniel T.; Carlisle, Daren M.; Clark, Jimmy M.; Mahler, Barbara J.; Nakagaki, Naomi; Qi, Sharon L.; Waite, Ian R.; Van Metre, Peter C.
The Water-Quality Partnership for National Parks—U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service, 1998–2016
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service (NPS) work together through the USGS–NPS Water-Quality Partnership to support a broad range of policy and management needs related to high-priority water-quality issues in national parks. The program was initiated in 1998 as part of the Clean Water Action Plan, a Presidential...Nilles, Mark A.; Penoyer, Pete E; Ludtke, Amy S.; Ellsworth, Alan C.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is water up to? Keeping the pulse on the Nation’s streams - USGS Streamgaging and the Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program.
This map shows estimated concentrations of atrazine in shallow groundwater beneath agricultural land. Atrazine use is one of the most important factors used to predict atrazine and deethylatrazine concentrations in groundwater (right). Within areas of high atrazine use, groundwater residence time, soil permeability, and other factors explain some of the differences in...
Hormones and pharmaceuticals, widely used for treatment of humans, domestic animals, and livestock, have the potential to enter the environment, including groundwater. In 2009, nearly 70% of Americans took at least one prescription drug, and more than half took 2 or more. Annually, billions of prescriptions are filled...
In this video, three speakers explain U.S. Geological Survey research on harmful algal blooms (HABs) and the nutrients that cause these toxic emerald-green blooms in the Nation’s lakes, reservoirs, and coastal waters. Jennifer Graham and Tom Stiles discuss how USGS science is contributing to the development of early warning systems and predictive tools to guide management...
Harmful algal blooms turn water in Milford Lake emerald green
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...
Some of the major human influences on water quality, in particular the ways we use land, water, and chemicals, have undergone dramatic changes over the last five decades, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Program. Patterns of urbanization, chemical use, and...
About one-third of more than 8,300 wells tested across the U.S. had groundwater with chemical characteristics that could cause lead, if present in plumbing, to leach into tap water at levels above the EPA Action Level, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Program. These...
The topic of pharmaceuticals and hormones in drinking water gets people’s attention, but if that drinking water is pumped from a well, those chemicals are less likely to be present, according to a new national study by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oxygen levels, dissolved minerals among factors responsible for high concentrations of radium in untreated water from aquifer that underlies six states
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
Larger-than-average low and no oxygen area may affect the region’s shrimp fisheries
Low- and no-oxygen area threatens crabs, oysters, fish