National Water Quality Program
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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.More about this program
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.
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...
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
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).
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...
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
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...
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
View annual deposition maps of H+, sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, and total inorganice nitrogen across the Nation beginning in 1985.
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.
This tool provides access to information and maps of watershed nutrient contributions to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes.
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.
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.
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,...
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...
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.
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...
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...
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.
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.
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
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
USGS provides a long-term look at changes in the quality of our nation’s rivers and streams
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.