History of the NWQP and Its Programs

In 2016, the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project, the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), the USGS-National Park Service (USGS-NPS) Water-Quality Partnership, and cooperative water-quality projects joined to form the National Water Quality Program (NWQP).

The NAWQA Project was implemented in 1991 to provide long-term, consistent and comparable information on the Nation’s water quality. From 1991 to 2001, the NAWQA Project conducted interdisciplinary assessments and established a baseline understanding of water-quality conditions in 51 of the Nation's river basins and aquifers, referred to as Study Units. NAWQA activities during its second decade (2001‑2012) focused in large part on national and regional assessments, all of which build on continued monitoring and assessments in 42 of the 51 Study Units completed in the first decade. NAWQA’s third decade of research is built on a foundation of 20 years of monitoring, modeling, and understanding studies that describe linkages between contaminant sources and their transport to receiving waters. The focus during this third decade is to track trends in surface-water and groundwater quality, to elucidate how water-quality and other stressors affect ecological communities, and to forecast how water quality will respond to changing environmental conditions.

The NADP was first organized in 1977 by the U.S. State Agricultural Experiment Stations (SAES) to measure atmospheric deposition of components of acid rain and study its effects on the environment. Sites in the NADP precipitation chemistry network began operations in 1978 with the goal of providing data on the amounts, trends, and geographic distributions of acids, nutrients, and base cations in precipitation. A second network, the Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network (AIRMoN), joined the NADP in 1992, and currently has 6 sites. Although measuring the same chemicals as the older network, AIRMoN sampling is daily rather than weekly. A third network, the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), joined the NADP in 1996, and currently has about 100 sites in the United States and Canada. All MDN samples are analyzed for total mercury, and some for the more toxic methyl mercury. The Atmospheric Mercury Network (AMNet) joined NADP in 2009. This network measures atmospheric mercury fractions that contribute to dry and total mercury deposition. The Ammonia Monitoring Network (AMoN) joined NADP in 2010, and now comprises about 100 monitoring locations.

USGS-NPS Water-Quality Partnership was initiated in 1998 as part of the Clean Water Action Plan, a Presidential initiative to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. To date, 243 partnership projects have been implemented in 126 national park units with over 209 reports and articles published to communicate project findings.

The Cooperative Matching Funds program was established in 1895. Throughout its more than 100 years of existence, it has been a highly successful cost-sharing partnership between the USGS and water-resource agencies at the state, local, and tribal levels. Throughout its history, the program has made important contributions to meeting USGS mission requirements, developing meaningful partnerships, sharing federal and non-federal financial resources, and keeping the agency focused on real-world problems. The redirect of a portion of NWQP funding to provide CMF for UWFP water-quality projects began in Fiscal Year 2017.