Design and methods of the Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA), 2014

Open-File Report 2015-1095
Prepared in cooperation with the National Water-Quality Assessment Program
By: , and 



During 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) assessed stream quality across the Piedmont and southern Appalachian Mountain regions of the southeastern United States. This Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA) simultaneously characterized watershed and stream-reach water-quality stressors along with instream biological conditions, in order to better understand regional stressor-effects relations. The goal of SESQA is to provide communities and policymakers with information about those human and environmental factors that have the greatest impact on stream quality across the region. The SESQA design focused on hydrologic alteration and urbanization because of their importance as ecological stressors of particular concern to Southeast region resource managers.

Streamflow and land-use data were used to identify and select sites representing gradients in urbanization and streamflow alteration across the region. One hundred fifteen sites were selected and sampled for as many as 10 weeks during April, May, and June 2014 for contaminants, nutrients, and sediment. This water-quality “index” period culminated with an ecological survey of habitat, periphyton, benthic macroinvertebrates, and fish at all sites. Sediment was collected during the ecological survey for analysis of sediment chemistry and toxicity testing. Of the 115 sites, 59 were on streams in watersheds with varying degrees of urban land use, 5 were on streams with multiple confined animal feeding operations, and 13 were reference sites with little or no development in their watersheds. The remaining 38 “hydro” sites were on streams in watersheds with relatively little agricultural or urban development but with hydrologic alteration, such as a dam or reservoir.

This report provides a detailed description of the SESQA study components, including surveys of ecological conditions, routine water sampling, deployment of passive polar organic compound integrative samplers for pesticides and contaminants of emerging concern, and synoptic sediment sampling and toxicity testing at all urban, confined animal feeding operation, and reference sites. Continuous water-quality monitoring and daily pesticide sampling efforts conducted at a subset of urban sites are also described.

Suggested Citation

Journey, C.A., Van Metre, P.C., Bell, A.H., Garrett, J.D., Button, D.T., Nakagaki, N., Qi, S.L., and Bradley, P.M., 2015, Design and methods of the Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA), 2014: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1095, 46 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Design
  • Data Collection and Processing
  • Laboratory Analyses
  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control
  • Selected References
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Design and methods of the Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA), 2014
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2015-1095
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151095
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 46 p.; 3 Appendices
Country United States
State Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details