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Open-File Report 2013–1160

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Design of Cycle 3 of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 2013–23: Part 2: Science Plan for Improved Water-Quality Information and Management

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

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (42.8 MB)Abstract

This report presents a science strategy for the third decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program, which since 1991, has been responsible for providing nationally consistent information on the quality of the Nation's streams and groundwater; how water quality is changing over time; and the major natural and human factors that affect current water quality conditions and trends. The strategy is based on an extensive evaluation of the accomplishments of NAWQA over its first two decades, the current status of water-quality monitoring activities by USGS and its partners, and an updated analysis of stakeholder priorities. The plan is designed to address priority issues and national needs identified by NAWQA stakeholders and the National Research Council (2012) irrespective of budget constraints.

This plan describes four major goals for the third decade (Cycle 3), the approaches for monitoring, modeling, and scientific studies, key partnerships required to achieve these goals, and products and outcomes that will result from planned assessment activities. The science plan for 2013–2023 is a comprehensive approach to meet stakeholder priorities for: (1) rebuilding NAWQA monitoring networks for streams, rivers, and groundwater, and (2) upgrading models used to extrapolate and forecast changes in water-quality and stream ecosystem condition in response to changing climate and land use. The Cycle 3 plan continues approaches that have been central to the Program’s long-term success, but adjusts monitoring intensities and study designs to address critical information needs and identified data gaps.

Restoration of diminished monitoring networks and new directions in modeling and interpretative studies address growing and evolving public and stakeholder needs for water-quality information and improved management, particularly in the face of increasing challenges related to population growth, increasing demands for water, and changing land use and climate. However, a combination of funding growth and extensive collaboration with other USGS programs and other Federal, State, and local agencies, public interest groups, professional and trade associations, academia, and private industry will be needed to fully realize the monitoring and modeling goals laid out in this plan (USGS Fact Sheet 2013-3008).

First posted September 18, 2013

For additional information contact:
Chief, National Water-Quality Assessment Program
U.S. Geological Survey
413 National Center
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Rowe, G.L., Jr., Belitz, Kenneth, Demas, C.R., Essaid, H.I., Gilliom, R.J., Hamilton, P.A., Hoos, A.B., Lee, C.J., Munn, M.D., and Wolock, D.W., 2013, Design of Cycle 3 of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 2013–23: Part 2: Science plan for improved water-quality information and management: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1160, 110 p.,


About this Report

Introduction and Overview

Cycle 3 Design Elements

Goal 1—Assess the Current Quality of the Nation’s Freshwater Resources and How Water Quality is Changing Over Time

Goal 2—Evaluate How Human Activities and Natural Factors, Such as Land Use, Water Use, and Climate Change, are Affecting the Quality of Surface Water and Groundwater

Goal 3—Determine the Relative Effects, Mechanisms of Activity, and Management Implications of Multiple Stressors in Aquatic Ecosystems

Goal 4—Predict the Effects of Human Activities, Climate Change, and Management Strategies on Future Water-Quality and Ecosystem Condition

References Cited

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