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Open-File Report 2009-1296

Prepared in cooperation with the National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Design of Cycle 3 of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 2013–2023:
Part 1: Framework of Water-Quality Issues and Potential Approaches

By Gary L. Rowe, Jr., Kenneth Belitz, Hedeff I. Essaid, Robert J. Gilliom, Pixie A. Hamilton, Anne B. Hoos, Dennis D. Lynch, Mark D. Munn, and David W. Wolock


Thumbnail of cover and link to report PDF (1.18 MB)

In 1991, the U.S. Congress established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to develop long-term, nationally consistent information on the quality of the Nation's streams and groundwater. Congress recognized the critical need for this information to support scientifically sound management, and regulatory and policy decisions concerning the increasingly stressed water resources of the Nation.

The long-term goals of NAWQA are to: (1) assess the status of water-quality conditions in the United States, (2) evaluate long-term trends in water-quality conditions, and (3) link status and trends with an understanding of the natural and human factors that affect water quality. These goals are national in scale, include surface water and groundwater, and include consideration of water quality in relation to human uses and aquatic ecosystems.

The purpose of this report, which is the first of two planned documents on the Cycle 3 design, is to outline and describe a framework of water-quality issues and priorities for Cycle 3 that reflect the unique capabilities and long-term goals of NAWQA, to update and assess stakeholder priorities, and to emphasize and identify potential approaches and partners. Eleven nationally important water-quality issues were identified by NAWQA stakeholders. Collectively the 11 issues provide an initial framework from which a detailed Science Plan for Cycle 3 can be developed. It is important to note, however, that NAWQA will not necessarily address all 11 issues in Cycle 3, nor will all selected topics addressed in Cycle 3 be given equal attention. Regarding the scope of this report, background information on water-quality issues featured in Cycles 1 and 2 is provided in the section entitled “Evaluation of Priority Issues” to establish the baseline. The section entitled “Priority Issues and Potential Approaches” describes 11 important issues identified by stakeholders as priorities for consideration in Cycle 3, including:
• A brief description of the nature and scope of the issue,
• NAWQA’s role in addressing the issue relevant to NAWQA accomplishments and long-term Program goals, and
• Potential approaches NAWQA could use to address the issue in NAWQA Cycle 3.

The last section entitled “Guiding Principles, Funding Scenarios, and Next Steps for Planning Cycle 3” describes guiding principles and considerations that will be used by the Cycle 3 Planning Team (C3PT) for the development of a Cycle 3 Science Plan. Several appendixes are included at the end of the report to document: (1) the process used to solicit stakeholder feedback on priority issues, (2) water-quality issues identified by NAWQA stakeholders in fall 2008, (3) baseline and stakeholder budget scenarios, and (4) general information about agencies and programs identified as potential partners for Cycle 3 activities.

First posted January 19, 2010

For additional information contact:

Assistant Regional Hydrologist for NAWQA
Gary L. Rowe, Jr.
U.S. Geological Survey
Denver Federal Center
Building 53, Box 25046
Mail Stop 404
Lakewood, CO 80225

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Rowe, G.L., Jr., Belitz, Kenneth, Essaid, H.I., Gilliom, R.J., Hamilton, P.A., Hoos, A.B., Lynch, D.D., Munn, M.D., and Wolock, D.W., 2010, Design of cycle 3 of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 2013–2023: Part 1—Framework of water-quality issues and potential approaches: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1296, 54 p.



Goals and Objectives of NAWQA

Purpose and Scope of this Report

NAWQA’s Unique Role in Assessing Current and Future Issues

Evaluation of Priority Issues

Review of Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 Priorities

Priority Issues and Potential Approaches

Climate Change

Energy and Natural Resource Development

Population Growth and Land-Use Change

Policies, Regulations, and Management Practices

Hydrologic Modification and Wastewater Reuse

Common Chemical and Microbial Contaminants

Emerging Contaminants

Effects of Multiple Stressors

Nutrient Enrichment


Streamflow Alteration

Guiding Principles, Funding Scenarios, and Next Steps for Planning Cycle 3

Guiding Principals for Planning Cycle 3

Next Steps in the Planning Process

References Cited

Appendix 1: Process Used to Solicit Initial Stakeholder Feedback on Priority Water-Quality Issues for Cycle 3

Appendix 2: Water-Quality Issues Identified by Stakeholders in Fall 2008

Appendix 3: Background on Baseline and Stakeholder Budget Scenarios

Appendix 4: Potential Partners and Collaborators

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