National Water Quality Program

Performance Measures

The National Water Quality Program (NWQP) currently tracks two performance measures in the 2018-2022 Department of the Interior (DOI) Strategic Plan under the goal to “utilize science in land, water, and species management supporting decisions and activities”.

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA), and the subsequent GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, require that federal agencies establish performance measures to track and assess progress toward Departmental performance goals. These performance goals and measures are required to be published in a Departmental Strategic Plan and tracked annually to increase agency accountability to the public. The National Water Quality Program (NWQP) currently tracks two performance measures in the 2018-2022 Department of the Interior (DOI) Strategic Plan under the goal to “utilize science in land, water, and species management supporting decisions and activities”.

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Performance Measure #1:  Percent completion of water quality sampling and studies for the Nation’s groundwater, streams, and rivers

As a part of the third decadal plan of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project, the NWQP is working to identify and understand the occurrence and long-term trends of nutrients, sediments, pesticides, and other contaminants in the Nation’s groundwater, streams, and rivers. To do this, the USGS conducts sampling to provide data that are used to support various water-quality assessments and management actions. For example, groundwater sampling is used to evaluate the prevalence of contaminants, including emerging contaminants, and to assess how concentrations of contaminants are changing over time. Surface-water sampling is used to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions intended to remediate degraded ecosystems, harmful algal blooms, and hypoxia, particularly in key landscapes like the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to sampling, the USGS supports the National Park Service Water-Quality Partnership (NPS-WQP), a program designed to provide water-quality science to the National Park Service (NPS) as they address a wide range of of water resource management issues in the Nation’s National Parks. Through this program, the USGS works in cooperation with the NPS to conduct studies on water-quality issues throughout the National Parks. This performance measure tracks USGS progress as it completes targeted sampling and studies in support of NAWQA Cycle 3 goals. A snapshot of the performance measure history and the 2022 goal aligned with the 2018-2022 DOI Strategic Plan is shown below.

Table showing completed water-quality sampling and studies from 2015-2018 and the 2022 goal

*The 2022 Goal assumed level funding from FY 2017 through FY 2022.

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Performance Measure #2:  Percentage of people living in targeted watersheds covered by completed water quality models

As a part of the NAWQA Cycle 3 Science Plan, the NWQP has a goal to develop dynamic models and long-term forecasts of water-quality conditions nationwide. As an intermediate step, development began on regional water-quality models, or “SPARROW” models, that will be used by national, State and local agencies, including the EPA Office of Water, USDA National Resources Conservation Service, and regional entities like the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Mississippi Task Force, to address questions regarding sediment, nutrients, and dissolved solids. The NWQP is developing SPARROW models for nutrients in each of the five large regions of the conterminous U.S.: Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, and Pacific. The first SPARROW model is planned for completion in 2019 for the Midwest region and the remaining models should be complete by 2022. With each completed model, the water resource managers of that region will be better equipped to understand the impact of various management scenarios, such as land-use, climatic, or agricultural practices, on the water quality of a particular region. This measure tracks the millions of people that will be covered by regional models by 2022. A snapshot of the performance measure history and the 2022 goal aligned with the 2018-2022 DOI Strategic Plan is shown below.

Table showing completed water-quality model coverage from 2015-2018 and the 2022 goal

*The 2022 Goal assumed level funding from FY 2017 through FY 2022.

Progress for these measures, as well as budget-adjusted targets, are published annually alongside the President’s Budget Request in DOI’s Annual Performance Plan and Report (APP&R).  To see each of the published Annual Performance Plans and Reports, please reference DOI’s Budget and Performance website.