Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5194

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Methods to Characterize Environmental Settings of Stream and Groundwater Sampling Sites for National Water-Quality Assessment

By Naomi Nakagaki, Kerie J. Hitt, Curtis V. Price, and James A. Falcone

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (10.4 MB)Abstract

Characterization of natural and anthropogenic features that define the environmental settings of sampling sites for streams and groundwater, including drainage basins and groundwater study areas, is an essential component of water-quality and ecological investigations being conducted as part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment program. Quantitative characterization of environmental settings, combined with physical, chemical, and biological data collected at sampling sites, contributes to understanding the status of, and influences on, water-quality and ecological conditions. To support studies for the National Water-Quality Assessment program, a geographic information system (GIS) was used to develop a standard set of methods to consistently characterize the sites, drainage basins, and groundwater study areas across the nation. This report describes three methods used for characterization—simple overlay, area-weighted areal interpolation, and land-cover-weighted areal interpolation—and their appropriate applications to geographic analyses that have different objectives and data constraints. In addition, this document records the GIS thematic datasets that are used for the Program’s national design and data analyses.

First posted January 24, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street, Placer Hall
Sacramento, California 95819

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:

Nakagaki, Naomi, Hitt, K.J., Price, C.V., and Falcone, J.A., 2012, Methods to characterize environmental settings of stream and groundwater sampling sites for National Water-Quality Assessment: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5194, 56 p.




GIS Datasets


Limitations and Related Adjustments



References Cited

Appendix A. The National GIS Thematic Datasets used by the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to Characterize Sampling Sites for Streams and Groundwater.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013, 02:03:25 PM