USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program

Network News Fall 1994, Vol. 16 No. 1
Network News

The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program was begun by the U. S. Geological Survey in 1991 as a systematic assessment of the quality of the Nation’s water resources. The program will describe the status and trends in the quality of a large, representative part of the Nation’s surface and ground water resources, and define the primary natural and human factors affecting the quality of these resources. in meeting these goals, NAWQA will produce information that will be useful to policymakers, scientists, and the general public at the national, state and local levels.

The building blocks of the NAWQA program are 60 study-unit investigations that include parts of most of the Nation’s major river basins and aquifers. These study units include 60 to 70 percent of the Nation’s water use and population served by public water supplies. Sampling occurs on a rotational basis, with 20 study units intensively sampling over three years, while others are writing results or in a planning period. The first 20 began sampling in 1993; the second and third groups will begin sampling after three- year intervals. Subsequent cycles of intensive sampling will begin in a study unit six years after sampling ceased in the previous study cycle.

NAWQA presents a nationally consistent framework that has potential for stimulating and facilitating comparative research across locations. For example, results from a single LTER study might be placed in a larger context by drawing on information from the NAWQA study unit near to or enveloping that LTER site. Comparisons across LTER sites might be guided by existing comparisons across NAWQA study units spanning the same regions. Hypotheses developed from the integrated physical, chemical, and biological assessments of NAWQA streams or aquifers may lead to hypotheses or process studies that would be testable in one or more LTER sites, or LTER results scaled up to NAWQA. Collaborative field work, and exchanges of data and “good ideas” are all possibilities.

Collaboration among scientists in both programs can occur at several levels. Liaison (advisory) committees for the second group of NAWQA studies are now being formed. LTER scientists are welcome to participate. Co-location of sampling sites, which has occurred in a few instances already, offers mutual benefits—NAWQA establishes reference (background) sampling sites that are similar to conditions at many LTER locations. Other key areas where collaboration is desirable include methods for regionalization of results, quality assurance, and archiving taxonomic specimens.

For more information: Dennis Helsel, 703-648-5713, (NAWQA program), or Marty Gurtz at 919-571-4018, (biological aspects)