Assessment of temporal trends in national ground-water quality networks are rarely published in scientific journals. This is partly due to the fact that long-term data from these types of networks are uncommon and because many national monitoring networks are not driven by hypotheses that can be easily incorporated into scientific research. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) since 1991 has to date (2006) concentrated on occurrence of contaminants because sufficient data for trend analysis is only just becoming available. This paper introduces the first set of trend assessments from NAWQA and provides an assessment of the success of the program. On a national scale, nitrate concentrations in ground water have generally increased from 1988 to 2004, but trends in pesticide concentrations are less apparent. Regionally, the studies showed high nitrate concentrations and frequent pesticide detections are linked to agricultural use of fertilizers and pesticides. Most of these areas showed increases in nitrate concentration within the last decade, and these increases are associated with oxic-geochemical conditions and well-drained soils. The current NAWQA plan for collecting data to define trends needs to be constantly reevaluated to determine if the approach fulfills the expected outcome. To assist this evaluation, a comparison of NAWQA to other national ground-water quality programs was undertaken. The design and spatial extent of each national program depend on many factors, including current and long-term budgets, purpose of the program, size of the country, and diversity of aquifer types. Comparison of NAWQA to nine other national programs shows a great diversity in program designs, but indicates that different approaches can achieve similar and equally important goals. Copyright ?? 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. All rights reserved.