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Aquatic-life criteria - Water-quality guidelines for protection of aquatic life. Often refers to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water-quality criteria for protection of aquatic organisms.

Aquifer - A water-bearing layer of soil, sand, gravel, or rock that will yield usable quantities of water to a well.

Basic Fixed Sites (BFS) - Sites on streams or canals at which streamflow is measured and samples are routinely collected for temperature, salinity, major ions, nutrients, and organic carbon. Samples may also be periodically collected for contaminants in bottom sediment, biota, storm effects, or other constituents.

Breakdown products - Compounds resulting from transformation of an organic substance through chemical, photochemical, and/or biochemical reactions.

DDT - Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane. An organochlorine insecticide no longer registered for use in the United States. DDT degradation products include DDE and DDD.

Drinking-water standard or guideline - A threshold concentration in a public drinking-water supply, designed to protect human health.

Ecosystem - The interacting populations of plants, animals, and microorganisms occupying an area, plus their physical environment.

Intensive Fixed Sites (IFS) - Basic Fixed Sites with increased sampling frequency during selected seasonal periods and analysis of dissolved pesticides for 1 year.

Load - General term that refers to a material or constituent in solution, in suspension, or in transport; usually expressed in terms of mass or volume.

Maximum contaminant level (MCL) - Maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water that is delivered to any user of a public water system. MCLs are enforceable standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Methylation - The addition of a methyl group (–CH3) to a molecule or atom through a chemical reaction.

Micrograms per liter (µg/L) - A unit expressing the concentration of constituents in solution as weight (micrograms) of solute per unit volume (liter) of water; equivalent to one part per billion in most stream water and ground water.

Nutrient - Element or compound essential for animal and plant growth. Common nutrients in fertilizer include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Organochlorine insecticide - A class of organic insecticides containing a high percentage of chlorine. Includes dichlorodiphenylethanes (such as DDT), chlorinated cyclodienes (such as chlordane), and chlorinated benzenes (such as lindane).

Periphyton - Organisms that grow on underwater surfaces; periphyton include algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and other organisms.

Pesticide - A chemical applied to crops, rights of way, lawns, or residences to control weeds, insects, fungi, nematodes, rodents or other “pests.”

Phosphorus - A nutrient essential for growth that can play a key role in stimulating aquatic growth in lakes and streams.

Phthalates - A class of organic compounds containing phthalic acid esters [C6H4(COOR)2] and derivatives. Used as plasticizers in plastics. Also used in many other products (such as detergents, cosmetics) and industrial processes (such as defoaming agents during paper and paperboard manufacture, and dielectrics in capacitors).

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - A mixture of chlorinated derivatives of biphenyl, marketed under the trade name Aroclor with a number designating the chlorine content (such as Aroclor 1260). PCBs were used in transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes and in gas pipeline systems as a lubricant. Further sale for new use was banned by law in 1979.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) - A class of organic compounds with a fused-ring aromatic structure. PAHs result from incomplete combustion of organic carbon (including wood), municipal solid waste, and fossil fuels, as well as from natural or anthropogenic introduction of uncombusted coal and oil. PAHs include benzo(a)pyrene, fluoranthene, and pyrene.

Recharge - Water that infiltrates the ground and reaches the saturated zone.

Reference site - A sampling site selected for its relatively undisturbed conditions.

Trace element - An element found in only minor amounts (concentrations less than 1.0 mg/L) in water or sediment; includes arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - Organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure relative to their water solubility. VOCs include components of gasoline, fuel oils, and lubricants, as well as organic solvents, fumigants, some inert ingredients in pesticides, and some by-products of chlorine disinfection.

Water-quality criteria - Specific levels of water quality which, if reached, are expected to render a body of water unsuitable for its designated use.

Water-quality standards - State-adopted and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved ambient standards for water bodies. Standards include the use of the water body and the water-quality criteria that must be met to protect the designated use or uses.

Water year - The 12-month period October 1 through September 30, designated by the calendar year in which it ends.

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U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1207

Suggested citation:

McPherson, B.F., Miller, R.L., Haag, K.H., and Bradner, Anne, 2000, Water Quality in Southern Florida Florida,1996–98: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1207, 32 p., on-line at

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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