National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project

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Water-Quality in the Nation’s Streams and Rivers – Current Conditions and Long-Term Trends

Dismal River near Thedford, Nebraska (site 06775900), August 16, 2016. Photograph by Robert E. Zuellig, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Objectives
Study Design
Publications
Contacts

Determine the current conditions and the long-term trends in water chemistry (nutrients, pesticides, sediment, carbon, and salinity) and aquatic ecology (fish, macroinvertebrates, and algae) in the Nation’s steams and rivers.

Evaluate the geographic distribution of improving and deteriorating water-quality conditions nationwide.

Determine the potential impact of these conditions on the health of humans and aquatic life.

Identify the major causes of long-term changes in water quality.

Two of the major goals of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project are to determine the current status of water-quality conditions in the Nation’s streams and rivers and to determine how those conditions are changing over time. To support the first goal, long-term consistent and comparable monitoring has been conducted for decades on streams and rivers throughout the Nation.  Current conditions are reported on-line:  Tracking Water Quality of the Nation's Rivers and Streams.

Outside of the NAWQA Project, the USGS and other Federal, State, and local agencies also have collected long-term water-quality data to support their own assessments of changing water-quality conditions. For the first time, these data have been combined with USGS data to support the most comprehensive assessment conducted to date of water-quality trends in the United States. Collectively, these data will provide insight into how natural features and human activities have contributed to water-quality changes over time in Nation's streams and rivers. Results from the long-term trend analyses are reported on-line: Water-Quality Changes in the Nation's Streams and Rivers.

Press releases, technical announcements, and congressional briefings

First-of-its-kind Interactive Map Brings Together 40 Years of Water-Quality Data (April 2017)
      Press Release | Article| Online trend mapper

Nation’s River Quality Data Could Power Deeper Science Insights (January 2017)
      Technical Announcement | Article

U.S. Rivers Show Few Signs of Improvement from Historic Nitrate Increases (October 2015)
      Press Release | Article

Predicting Pesticides in Streams and Rivers: Where is Water Quality at Risk? (September 2015)
      Press Release | Online mapper

20-Year Study Shows Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams (September 2014)
      Press Release | Article

Trends in Nutrients and Pesticides in the Nation's Streams and Rivers (April 2014)
      Congressional Briefing

National Assessment Shows Geographic Distributions and Trends of Pesticide Use, 1992-2009 (May 2009)
      Technical Announcement |Online mapper

 

Current Conditions – Status Results


Shoda, M.E., Stone, W.W. and Nowell, L.H., 2016, Prediction of Pesticide Toxicity in Midwest Streams: Journal of Environmental Quality, vol. 45, p. 1856-1864, https://doi.org/10.2134/jeq2015.12.0624.

Stone, W.W., Gilliom, R.J., and Ryberg, K.R., 2014, Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Rivers: Occurrence and Trends during 1992–2011: Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 48, p. 11025-11030, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es5025367.

Stone, W.W., Gilliom, R.J., and Martin, J.D., 2014, An overview comparing results from two decades of monitoring for pesticides in the Nation’s streams and rivers, 1992–2001 and 2002–2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5154, 23 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20145154.

Stone, W. W. and Bucknell, M. S., 2014, Watershed Regressions for Pesticides (WARP): U.S. Geological Survey Web Page, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7R20ZD3.

Stone, W.W., Gilliom, R.J., and Crawford, C.G., 2013, Watershed Regressions for Pesticides (WARP) models for predicting stream concentrations of multiple pesticides: Journal of Environmental Quality, vol. 42, p. 1838-1851, https://doi.org/10.2134/jeq2013.05.0179.

Thelin, G.P., and Stone, W.W., 2013, Estimation of annual agricultural pesticide use for counties of the conterminous United States, 1992–2009: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5009, 54 p., https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2013/5009/.


Trend Results

Stets, E.G., Lee, C.J., Lytle, D.A., and Schock, M.R., 2017, Increasing chloride in rivers of the conterminous U.S. and linkages to potential corrosivity and lead action level exceedances in drinking water: Science of the Total Environment, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.119

Oelsner, G.P., Sprague, L.A., Murphy, J.C., Zuellig, R.E., Johnson, H.M., Ryberg, K.R., Falcone, J.A., Stets, E.G., Vecchia, A.V., Riskin, M.L., De Cicco, L.A., Mills, T.J., and Farmer, W.H., 2017, Water-quality trends in the Nation’s rivers and streams, 1972–2012—Data preparation, statistical methods, and trend results: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5006, 136 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175006


Water-quality data

Shoda, M.E., Nowell, L.H., Bexfield, L.M., Sandstrom, M.W., Stone, W.W., 2017, Recovery data for surface water, groundwater and lab reagent samples analyzed by the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory schedule 2437, water years 2013-15: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7QZ28G4

Whiddon, E.T., and E.G. Stets, 2017, Corrosivity index and streamflow datasets used to evaluate trends in potentially corrosive source waters in the Nation's streams and rivers: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F79S1P74.

De Cicco, L.A., Sprague, L.A., Murphy, J.C., Riskin, M.L., Falcone, J.A., Stets, E.G., Oelsner, G.P., and Johnson, H.M., 2017, Water-quality and streamflow datasets used in the Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) models to determine trends in the Nation’s rivers and streams, 1972-2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7KW5D4H.

Ryberg, K.R., Murphy, J.C., Falcone, J.A., Riskin, M.L., Wieben, C.M., and Vecchia, A.V., 2017, Pesticide concentration and streamflow datasets used to evaluate pesticide trends in the Nation’s rivers and streams, 1992-2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7BC3WPC.

Zuellig, R.E. and Riskin, M.L., 2017, Ecological community datasets used to evaluate the presence of trends in ecological communities in selected rivers and streams across the United States, 1992-2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7G44ND3.

Farmer, W.H., Murphy, J.C., Riskin, M.L., Ryberg, K.R., and Zuellig, R.E., 2017, Daily streamflow datasets used to analyze trends in streamflow at sites also analyzed for trends in water quality and ecological condition in the Nation's rivers and streams: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://www.dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7D798JN.

Mills, T.J., Sprague, L.A., Murphy, J.C., Riskin, M.L., Falcone, J.A., Stets, E.G., Oelsner, G.P, and Johnson, H.M., 2017, Water-quality and streamflow datasets used in Seasonal Kendall trend tests for the Nation’s rivers and streams, 1972-2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7QN64VT.

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


Geospatial data

Baker, N.T., 2017, Agricultural Pesticide Use Estimates for the USGS National Water Quality Network, 1992-2014: Version 2: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F72N50GZ.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Agricultural Pesticide Use Estimates for Selected Watersheds of the Surface Water Trends Project, 1992-2014, National Water Quality Program: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F71N7ZKB.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Pesticide Use Web Page (https://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/) update and approval as a database with doi: https://doi.org/10.5066/F7NP22KM.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Estimated annual agricultural pesticide use by crop group for states of the conterminous United States, 1992-2014: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7NP22KM.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Preliminary Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use for Counties of the Conterminous United States, without California Data, 2016: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7NP22KM.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Preliminary Estimated Annual Agricultural Pesticide Use for Counties of the Conterminous United States, 2015: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7NP22KM.

Baker, N.T., 2017, Estimated annual agricultural pesticide use by crop group for states of the conterminous United States, 1992-2015: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7NP22KM.

Falcone, J.A., Baker, N.T., Price, C.V., 2017, Watershed boundaries for study sites of the U.S. Geological Survey Surface Water Trends project: U.S. Geological Survey data release, http://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F78S4N29.

Falcone, J.A., 2017, Coefficient-based consistent mapping of imperviousness in the conterminous U.S. at 60-m resolution for 1974, 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F72F7KMG.

Falcone, J.A., 2017, Old vs. new urban: U.S. national mapping of the year of “first development” for urban areas, from 1940-2010: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7FQ9TSJ.

Falcone, J.A., 2017, Conterminous U.S. mapping of household income at the block group scale adjusted for cost-of-living for the period 2013-2014: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7668BB6.

Baker, N.T., 2016, Watershed Boundaries for the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Network: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7SF2TBD.

Falcone, J.A., and LaMotte, A.E., 2016, National 1-kilometer rasters of selected Census of Agriculture statistics allocated to land use for the time period 1950 to 2012: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F70R9MHS.

Falcone, J.A., 2016, County fresh-water withdrawal water use allocated to relevant land uses in the United States: 1985 to 2010: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F7DJ5CR5.

Falcone, J.A., 2016, U.S. national categorical mapping of building heights by block group from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7W09416.

Falcone, J.A., 2016, U.S. block-level population density rasters for 1990, 2000, and 2010: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://dx.doi.org/10.5066/F74J0C6M.

Falcone, J.A., 2015, U.S. conterminous wall-to-wall anthropogenic land use trends (NWALT), 1974-2012: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 948, 33 p. DOI: 10.3133/ds948, https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ds948


Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Medalie, Laura, and Martin, J.D., 2017, Nutrient and pesticide contamination bias estimated from field blanks collected at surface-water sites in U.S. Geological Survey water-quality networks, 2002–12: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5129, 40 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165129.


List of all NAWQA trend publications

Contacts

Lori Sprague, Coordinator, Surface-Water Status and Trend Studies
lsprague@usgs.gov
(303) 236-6921

Nancy Baker, Hydrologist /GIS specialist
ntbaker@usgs.gov
(317) 600-2785

Andy Bock, Hydrologist
abock@usgs.gov
(303) 236-6875

Charlie Crawford, Hydrologist/Statistician
cgcrawfo@usgs.gov
(317) 600-2776

John Crawford, Ecologist
jcrawford@usgs.gov
(303) 541-3052

James Falcone, GIS specialist
jfalcone@usgs.gov
(703) 648-5008

Jennifer Graham, Hydrologist
jlgraham@usgs.gov
(785) 832-3511

Hank Johnson, Hydrologist
hjohnson@usgs.gov
(503) 251-3472

Jeff Martin, Hydrologist
jdmartin@usgs.gov
(317) 600-2748

Laura Medalie, Hydrologist
lmedalie@usgs.gov
(802) 828-4512

Jenny Murphy, Hydrologist
jmurphy@usgs.gov
(615) 837-4752

Gretchen Oelsner, Hydrologist
goelsner@usgs.gov
(505) 830-7982

Melissa Riskin, Hydrologist
mriskin@usgs.gov
(609) 771-3924

Karen Ryberg, Statistician
kryberg@usgs.gov
(701) 250-7422

Megan Shoda, Hydrologist
meshoda@usgs.gov
(317) 600-2725

Sarah Stackpoole, Ecologist
sstackpoole@usgs.gov
(303) 236-0271

Ted Stets, Ecologist
estets@usgs.gov
(303) 541-3048

Wesley Stone, Hydrologist
wwstone@usgs.gov
(317) 600-2786

Christine Wieben, Hydrologist
cwieben@usgs.gov
(609) 406-3817

Bob Zuellig, Ecologist
rzuellig@usgs.gov
(970) 226-9419

The Nation's rivers and streams are a valuable resource, providing drinking water for a growing population, irrigation for crops, habitat for aquatic life, and many recreational opportunities. But pollution from urban and agricultural areas continues to pose a threat to water quality. Since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, Federal, State, and local governments have invested billions of dollars to reduce pollution entering streams and rivers. Yet recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that more than half of the Nation's stream miles have ecosystems in poor condition. In order to understand the return on these investments, and to more effectively manage and protect the Nation's water resources, we need to know the current status of the Nation’s water-quality conditions and how and why those conditions have been changing over time.

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