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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.

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Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers

Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers

During the 20 years from 1992 to 2011, pesticides were found at concentrations that exceeded aquatic-life benchmarks in many rivers and streams that drain agricultural, urban, and mixed-land use watersheds.

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News

Date published: December 7, 2017

The Quality of the Nation’s Groundwater: Progress on a National Survey

This story was updated on December 7, 2017.
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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the East: The Piedmont and Blue Ridge Crystalline-Rock Aquifers

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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the Midwest: The Cambrian-Ordovician Aquifer System

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.

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Date published: August 19, 2018
Status: Active

USGS / National Park Service Water-Quality Partnership

Since 1998, the USGS-National Park Service Water-Quality Partnership has supported 217 projects to protect and improve water quality in 119 national parks. These USGS-NPS collaborative projects support science-based resource management by the National Park Service to address critical water-quality issues for many of our Nation's most highly valued aquatic systems. 

Date published: February 15, 2018
Status: Active

Great Salt Lake Basins National Water Quality Assessment

The Great Salt Lake Basins (GRSL) National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) was one of 51 study units across the country. Started in 1998, the long-term goals of this program were to describe the status and trends in the quality of a large, representative part of the Nation's surface- and ground-water resources, and to provide a sound, scientific understanding of the primary factors affecting...

Date published: January 23, 2018
Status: Active

SPARROW Model Assessments of Nutrients and Suspended Sediment in the Pacific Northwest and California

SPARROW can be used to relate water-quality data to landscape characteristics, such as natural properties and human activities

Contacts: Daniel R Wise
Date published: April 25, 2017
Status: Active

National Water-Quality Program Monitoring Networks, Arizona, 2013-2023

The Arizona Water Science Center collects water-quality data from stream and aquifer sites in networks that are part of the National Water-Quality Program (NWQP) and the National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN).

Date published: April 12, 2017
Status: Active

Stream quality assessments in the Southeast

The South Atlantic Water Science Center is a participant in the Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA) which covers the southeastern region of the Regional Stream Quality Assessment (RSQA).

The goal of the study is to determine how stream...

Date published: March 10, 2017
Status: Active

Transport and Fate of Nutrients

Eutrophication, or excess nutrients in streams, is typically one of the top reasons that a stream is listed as impaired on the 303(d) list as part of the Clean Water Act. How nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, are transported to streams and groundwater greatly affects the best management plan to keep them on fields and out of streams and groundwater. Likewise, environmental managers...

Date published: January 1, 2017
Status: Completed

Effects of Nutrient Enrichment on Stream Ecosystems (Upper Snake River Basin NAWQA)

Nutrient enrichment can affect the ecological health of a stream. For example, excessive aquatic plant growth caused by increased nutrients can reduce dissolved oxygen necessary for other aquatic life. Topics of particular interest in this study area include:

seasonal patterns among nutrients, flows, algae and plants in streams

rooted aquatic plant vs. algae growth

stream...

Date published: November 4, 2016

White, Great, and Little Miami River (WHMI) NAWQA Groundwater Status And Trends

The White, Great, and Little Miami River (WHMI) Basins  in Indiana and Ohio comprise one of more than 50 study units that are part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The long-term goals of the NAWQA program are to describe the water-quality status and trends in a large representative part of the Nation's surface-water and groundwater resources and to provide a sound...

Date published: November 4, 2016

Microbiological Monitoring Of Groundwater Used As A Source Of Drinking Water (NAWQA Cycle 3)

The National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) has been sampling public supply wells and domestic wells across the U.S. since 2013 for a broad suite of microbiological indicators including total coliform s , E. coli, enterococci, F-specific coliphage , somatic coliphage, and aerobic endospores. USGS scientists in Ohio and Massachusetts are collaborating on the analysis of...

Date published: September 21, 2016

Michigan Historical NAWQA Programs

The USGS implemented the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in 1991 to develop long-term consistent and comparable information on streams, rivers, groundwater, and aquatic systems in support of national, regional, State, and local information needs and decisions related to water-quality management and policy.

Contacts: Lori Fuller
Date published: September 21, 2016

NAWQA Surface Water National Fixed Network Site Status and Trends

As part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program the USGS MIWSC operates a stream gage and routinely collects water quality samples at the Clinton River at Sterling Heights, MI. station. Water is analyzed for sediment, nutrients, major ions, and a suite of 271 different pesticides. Information obtained...

Contacts: Lori Fuller
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Date published: March 24, 2017

Groundwater Age Mixtures and Contaminant Trends Tool

Explore the effects of basic aquifer properties and well configurations on groundwater age mixtures in groundwater discharge and on contaminant trends from varying nonpoint-source contaminant input scenarios.

Date published: March 24, 2017

USGS Sediment Data Portal

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.

Date published: March 24, 2017

Water Quality Data Portal

The Water Quality Portal (WQP) is a cooperative service sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC). It serves data collected by over 400 state, federal, tribal, and local agencies.

Date published: March 24, 2017

WaterQualityWatch

WaterQualityWatch provides access to USGS real time water-quality data collected in surface waters throughout the United States. Measurements include water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and nitrate. 

Date published: March 24, 2017

National Atmospheric Deposition Program Animated Maps

View annual deposition maps of H+, sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, and total inorganice nitrogen across the Nation beginning in 1985.

Date published: March 24, 2017

BioData – Aquatic Bioassessment Data

Discover over 17,000 fish, macroinvertebrate, and algal samples and physical habitat data collected at over 2,000 sites by the USGS since 1991.

Date published: February 10, 2017

Predict Pesticide Levels in Streams and Rivers--Where is water quality at Risk?​

Use the mapping tool to predict concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the Nation and identify which streams are most likely to exceed water-quality guidelines for human health or aquatic life.​

Date published: January 17, 2017

Tracking the Source and Quantity of Nutrients to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes

This tool provides access to information and maps of watershed nutrient contributions to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes.

Date published: January 17, 2017

Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use

View the geographic distribution of estimated use of numerous pesticides on agricultural land in the conterminous United States. A graph accompanies each map, which shows annual national use by major crop for the mapped pesticide for each year during the period. 

Date published: January 17, 2017

​Tracking Water Quality of the Nation's Rivers and Streams

An online graphical data tool provides annual summaries of nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads and streamflow information for 106 sites monitored as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Network for Streams and Rivers.

Date published: January 1, 2017

Watershed characteristics for study sites of the Surface Water Trends project, National Water Quality Program

This product consists of 29 datasets of tabular data and associated metadata for watershed characteristics of 1,530 study sites of the Surface Water Trends (SWT) project of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Water Quality Program (NWQP). The project is conducting national studies of trends in water quality of streams and rivers for periods ranging from 10 to 40 years,...

Date published: December 1, 2016

Select watershed attributes for California stream segments (NHDPlus V.1)

This data set includes 28 physical watershed attributes for each of 135,118 stream segments (National Hydrodraphy Dataset, Version 1) in California. These data were used to support a report entitled: "Classification of California streams using combined deductive and inductive approaches: setting the foundation for analysis of hydrologic alteration" authored by Pyne, Carlisle, Konrad, and...

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Year Published: 2018

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.
Holtschlag, D.J., 2018, 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: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5053, 30 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185053.

Year Published: 2018

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.
Munn, M.D., Frey, J.W., Tesoriero, A.J., Black, R.W., Duff, J.H., Lee, Kathy, Maret, T.R., Mebane, C.A., Waite, I.R., and Zelt, R.B., 2018, Understanding the influence of nutrients on stream ecosystems in agricultural landscapes: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1437, 80 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1437.

Year Published: 2018

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...

U.S. Geological Survey, 2018, General introduction for the “National Field Manual for the Collection of Water-Quality Data” (ver. 1.1, June 2018): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 9, chap. A0, 4 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/tm9A0. [Supersedes USGS Techniques and Methods, book 9, chap. A0, version 1.0.]

Year Published: 2017

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.

Year Published: 2017

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.
Sprague, L.A., Oelsner, G.P., and Argue, D.M., 2017, Challenges with secondary use of multi-source water-quality data in the United States. Water Research: vol. 110, p 252-261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2016.12.024

Year Published: 2016

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.

Year Published: 2016

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.
Nilles, M.A., Penoyer, P.E., Ludtke, A.S., and Ellsworth, A.C., 2016, The Water-Quality Partnership for national parks—U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service, 1998–2016: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3041, 6 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163041.

Year Published: 2016

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
Miller, M. P., S. G. Buto, D. D. Susong, and C. A. Rumsey (2016), The importance of base flow in sustaining surface water flow in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Water Resour. Res., 52, doi:10.1002/2015WR017963.

Year Published: 2016

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.
Mahler, B.J., Woodside, M.D., and VanMetre, P.C., 2016, Coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat—Potential concerns for human health and aquatic life: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3017, 6 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163017.

Year Published: 2016

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.
Hoogestraat, G.K., and Rowe, B.L., 2016, Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5030, 29 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165030.

Year Published: 2016

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.
S.J.Kalkhoff, L.E. Hubbard, M.D. Tomer , and D.E. James, 2016, Effect of variable annual precipitation and nutrient input on nitrogen and phosphorus transport from two Midwestern agricultural watersheds: Science of the Total Environment, vol. 559, pp. 53-62

Year Published: 2016

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.

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Date published: January 25, 2018

SPARROW modeling: Estimating contaminant transport

 

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.

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Overview of Water Quality in Principal Aquifers
December 31, 2018

Overview of Water Quality in Principal Aquifers

Overview of Water Quality in Principal Aquifers

A national map that shows by color estimated concentrations of atrazine in shallow groundwater underneath agricultural land.
December 31, 2018

Estimated concentrations of atrazine in shallow groundwater

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

...
April 26, 2018

National Liaison Committee Meeting: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

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

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Harmful algal blooms turn water in Milford Lake emerald green
March 20, 2018

Harmful algal blooms turn water in Milford Lake emerald green

Harmful algal blooms turn water in Milford Lake emerald green

July 31, 2017

USGS Continuous Nutrient Monitoring in the Mississippi River Basin

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

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Research Buoy
June 25, 2017

NWQL Slider

Research Buoy slider images

NWQL Analytical Services Lab
June 25, 2017

NWQL Slider

NWQL Analytical Services Lab slider image

Water Quality Sample
June 25, 2017

NWQL Slider

Water Quality Sample

Scuba Divers
June 25, 2017

NWQL Slider

Scuba Divers slider image

Man in orange vest stands knee-deep in stream with a net
May 15, 2017

An ecologist uses a net to collect a sample of aquatic invertebrates

As part of the Regional Stream Quality Assessments (RSQA), hydrologists, ecologists, and technicians did ecological surveys of aquatic biota and stream habitat.  Here, an ecologist uses a net to collect a sample of aquatic invertebrates for ennumeration and identification.

Stormwater flows from a graffiti-decorated outfall into urban Sausal Creek
May 14, 2017

Urban outfall to Sausal Creek

Graffiti adorns an outfall pipe discharging stormwater into Sausal Creek. Sausal Creek was one of the many urban creeks sampled by the Regional Stream Quality Assessment (RSQA).

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Date published: December 7, 2017

The Quality of the Nation’s Groundwater: Progress on a National Survey

This story was updated on December 7, 2017.
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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the East: The Piedmont and Blue Ridge Crystalline-Rock Aquifers

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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the Midwest: The Cambrian-Ordovician Aquifer System

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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the North: The Glacial Aquifer System

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.

Date published: December 7, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the Southwest: The Rio Grande Aquifer System

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Rio Grande aquifer system, which includes parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: December 6, 2017

Scientists Home in on Causes of High Radium Levels in Key Midwestern Aquifer

Oxygen levels, dissolved minerals among factors responsible for high concentrations of radium in untreated water from aquifer that underlies six states

Date published: August 9, 2017

Pesticides Prevalent in Midwestern Streams

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

Date published: June 20, 2017

NOAA, USGS and partners predict third largest Gulf of Mexico summer ‘dead zone’ ever

Larger-than-average low and no oxygen area may affect the region’s shrimp fisheries

Date published: May 31, 2017

Unconventional Oil and Gas Production Not Currently Affecting Drinking Water Quality

Decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas

Date published: April 4, 2017

First-of-its-kind Interactive Map Brings Together 40 Years of Water-Quality Data

USGS provides a long-term look at changes in the quality of our nation’s rivers and streams

Date published: January 19, 2017

Groundwater Quality in the West: Examining Basin and Range Basin-Fill Aquifers

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers, which include parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and adjacent states, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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