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THIS REPORT summarizes major findings about water quality in part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin (referred to as the Study Unit in this report) that emerged from an assessment conducted from 1995 to 1998 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Water quality is discussed in terms of local and regional issues and compared to conditions in 36 NAWQA study areas, called study units, assessed to date. Findings are also explained in the context of selected national benchmarks, such as those for drinking-water quality and the protection of aquatic organisms. The NAWQA Program was not intended to assess the quality to the Nationís drinking water, such as by monitoring water from household taps. Rather, the assessments focus on the quality of the resource itself, thereby complementing many ongoing Federal, State, and local drinking-water monitoring programs. The comparisons made in this report to drinking-water standards and guidelines are only in the context of the available untreated resource. Finally, this report includes information about the status of aquatic communities and the condition of in-stream habitat as elements of the complete water-quality assessment.

Many topics covered in this report reflect the concerns of officials of State and Federal agencies, water-resource managers, and members of stakeholder groups who provided advice and input during the Study Unit assessment. Basin residents who wish to know more about water quality in the areas where they live will find this report informative as well.

Map showing United State NAWQA Study Units location of Upper Mississippi.

THE NAWQA PROGRAM seeks to improve scientific and public understanding of water quality in the Nationís major river basins and ground-water systems. Better understanding encourages effective resource management, accurate identification of water-quality priorities, and successful development of strategies that protect and restore water quality. Guided by a nationally consistent study design and shaped by ongoing communication with local, State, and Federal agencies, NAWQA assessments support the investigation of local issues and trends, while providing a firm foundation for understanding water quality at regional and national scales. The ability to integrate local and national scales of data collection and analysis is a unique feature of the NAWQA Program.

The Upper Mississippi River Basin Study Unit is one of 51 water-quality assessments initiated since 1991, when the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for the USGS to begin the NAWQA Program. As indicated on the map, 36 assessments have been completed, and 15 assessments will conclude in 2001. Collectively, these assessments cover about one-half of the land area of the United States and include water resources that are available to more than 60 percent of the U.S. population.

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U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1211

Suggested citation:

Stark, J.R., Hanson, P.E., Goldstein, R.M., Fallon, J.D., Fong, K.E., Lee, A.L., Kroening, S.E., and Andrews, W.J., 2000, Water Quality in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, and North Dakota, 1995–98: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1211, 35 p., on-line at

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