National water summary 1990-91: Hydrologic events and stream water quality

Water Supply Paper 2400

Compiled by:
Richard W. Paulson, Edith B. Chase, John S. Williams, and David W. Moody



National Water Summary 1990-91 Hydrologic Events and Stream Water Quality was planned to complement existing Federal-State water-quality reporting to the U.S. Congress that is required by the Clean Water Act of 1972. This act, formally known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-500), and its amendments in 1977,1979,1980,1981,1983, and 1987, is the principal basis for Federal-State cooperation on maintaining and reporting on water quality in the United States. Under section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, the States must designate uses for waterbodies, biennially assess whether the waterbodies meet designated uses, and report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which in turn summarizes the findings of the State assessments in a biennial National Water Quality Inventory report to the Congress.

This volume of the National Water Summary uses a nationally consistent data base and methods of statistical analysis to document stream water quality in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Western Pacific Islands. As a basis for preparation of this report, the U.S. Geological Survey (uses) created a data base of waterquality data from about 2,900 stream water-quality monitoring stations in the United States (Lanfear, 1993). These data, which were extracted primarily from the uses National Water Information System (NWIS) and supplemented with data from the EPA national data base known as STORET, consisted mostly of water-chemistry and physical-sediment data. About 1,400 of these stations met a criterion, used in this volume for trends analysis of data, of having a period of record that began before water year 1980. (A water year is the period from October 1 through September 30 and is identified by the calendar year at the end of the period.) Inasmuch as the determination of trends requires about 10 years of data, few biological data were suitable for trends analysis because biological indicators of water quality were not being collected extensively by water year 1980. Also, because of the lack of long-term data, an assessment of the water quality of lakes and reservoirs is not included in this National Water Summary. Constituent and waterproperty data were selected from this data base and analyzed with statistical techniques that have been used extensively by the uses to summarize conditions and trends in water quality. (Throughout the remainder of this article, the term "constituent" is used also to represent water properties, such as pH and alkalinity.) Selected results from this analysis are presented graphically, both by State and nationally, in this volume.

The data base created for preparation of this volume and the resulting nationally consistent statistical analysis of these data provide a unique opportunity to compare and contrast stream water-quality conditions and trends nationally and State by State. Because of the complexity of water quality and the natural seasonal and diurnal variations in the concentrations of waterquality constituents, the determination of trends in water quality requires a relatively long period of record. Trends in constituent concentrations in the State summaries in this volume were calculated for one or more of four periods water years 1970-89,1975-89,1980- 89, and 1982-89. Unfortunately, few water-quality monitoring stations have periods of record of more than 10 or 15 years, and therefore most analyses in the State summaries were done for 8- or 10-year periods. Although interest in water quality has continued to heighten since passage of the Clean Water Act, funds for support of data-collection programs are limited and data records of many of the constituents now of current concern, especially organic constituents, do not exist or are less than 10-years long; consequently only a modest number of organic constituents are presented in this volume. Discussion of conditions and trends in water quality in this National Water Summary also draw upon information about land use, population, water use, application of agricultural chemicals in rural areas, the siting of industrial facilities, and other ancillary information. Because the results of analysis of a restricted number of constituents are presented in this volume, State 305(b) reports also are cited in the discussion of water quality in each State.

The following discussion is an overview of the three parts of this 1990-91 National Water Summary - "Hydrologic Conditions and Water-Related Events, Water Years 1990-91," "Hydrologic Perspectives on Water Issues," and "State Summaries of Stream Water Quality."

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
National water summary 1990-91: Hydrologic events and stream water quality
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
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U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
590 p.
United States
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