What is the NAWQA Program?
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is committed to providing the Nation with accurate and timely scientific information that helps enhance and protect the overall quality of life and that facilitates effective management of water, biological, energy, and mineral resources. Information on the quality of the Nation’s water resources is critical to assuring the long-term availability of water that is safe for drinking and recreation and suitable for industry, irrigation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. Population growth and increasing demands for multiple water uses make water availability, now measured in terms of quantity and quality, even more essential to the long-term sustainability of our communities and ecosystems.
The USGS implemented the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in 1991 to support national, regional, and local information needs and decisions related to water-quality management and policy. Shaped by and coordinated with ongoing efforts of other Federal, State, and local agencies, the NAWQA Program is designed to answer: What is the condition of our Nation’s streams and ground water? How are the conditions changing over time? How do natural features and human activities affect the quality of streams and groundwater, and where are those effects most pronounced? By combining information on water chemistry, physical characteristics, stream habitat, and aquatic life, the NAWQA Program aims to provide science-based insights for current and emerging water issues and priorities.
From 1991-2001, the NAWQA Program completed interdisciplinary assessments in 51 of the Nation’s major river basins and aquifer systems, referred to as Study Units. Baseline conditions were established for comparison to future assessments, and long-term monitoring was initiated in many of the basins. During the next decade, 42 of the 51 Study Units will be reassessed so that 10 years of comparable monitoring data will be available to determine trends at many of the Nation’s streams and aquifers. The next 10 years of study also will fill in critical gaps in characterizing water-quality conditions, enhance understanding of factors that affect water quality, and establish links between sources of contaminants, the transport of those contaminants through the hydrologic system, and the potential effects of contaminants on humans and aquatic ecosystems.
The USGS aims to disseminate credible, timely, and relevant science information to inform practical and effective water-resource management and strategies that protect and restore water quality. We hope NAWQA publications will provide you with insights and information to meet your needs, and will foster increased citizen awareness and involvement in the protection and restoration of our Nation’s waters.
The USGS recognizes that a national assessment by a single program cannot address all water-resource issues of interest. External coordination at all levels is critical for a fully integrated understanding of watersheds and for cost-effective management, regulation, and conservation of our Nation’s water resources. The NAWQA Program, therefore, depends on advice and information from other agencies—Federal, State, interstate, Tribal, and local—as well as nongovernmental organizations, industry, academia, and other stakeholder groups. Your assistance and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Robert M. Hirsch
Associate Director for Water
For more information:
The National Water-Quality Assessment Program-Entering a new decade of investigations. (USGS Fact Sheet 071-01, a preview of the second decade of studies)