What We Do

The National Water Quality Program (NWQP) brings together four large projects that evaluate the quality of our Nation’s waters: 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 projects.  

Research by the National Water Quality Program (NWQP) is designed to answer critical questions about the quality of the Nation’s freshwater resources. Each of the four projects within the NWQP has different objectives, but each is concerned with providing rigorous, science-based information about the quality of our Nation’s freshwater resources.

The NAWQA Project assesses current water-quality conditions, tracks how those conditions are changing over time, evaluates how natural factors and human activities affect observed conditions and trends, and determines how the quality of the Nation’s freshwater resources might change in the future in response to changing environmental conditions and human activities. NAWQA scientists collect and interpret data about surface- and ground-water chemistry, hydrology, land use, stream habitat, and aquatic life in all 50 states and Puerto Rico using a nationally consistent study design and uniform methods of sampling analysis.

The NADP, a cooperative effort among many different groups, monitors the chemistry of rain and snow and studies the effects of atmospheric deposition on the environment. The USGS supports 88 of the roughly 250 NADP National Trends Network sites, which measure acidity, nutrients, and other major ions in precipitation. A fundamental NADP program objective is to provide scientists, resource managers and policy-makers world-wide with a long-term, high-quality database of atmospheric deposition information to support research and decision-making in the areas of air quality, water quality, agricultural practices, forest productivity, materials effects, ecosystem studies, watershed studies, and human health.

The USGS-NPS Water-Quality Partnership empowers USGS scientists and NPS resource managers to work in partnership to support a broad range of policy and management needs related to high-priority water-quality issues in national parks. Partnership projects are developed jointly by the USGS and the NPS. Studies are conducted by the USGS with NPS assistance and findings are used by the NPS to guide policy and management actions aimed at protecting and improving water quality.

USGS NWQP Cooperative Matching Funds (NWQP-CMF) support projects that allow the USGS and its partners to respond to significant or emerging water issues in a timely manner and to partner in short- and long-term monitoring projects. Some NWQP-CMF water-quality projects assess the current quality of a specific resource (stream, lake, aquifer) of interest to our partners; others develop complex analytical tools and models for use by USGS partners to extrapolate current water-quality conditions spatially and temporally. A small part of NWQP-CMF supports existing, multi-agency projects in Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP) areas. The UWFP reconnects urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts to improve our Nation's water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits.