From 1986 to 1993, the National Irrigation Water-Quality Program (NIWQP) of the U.S, Department of the Interior studied whether contamination was induced by irrigation drainage in 26 areas of the Western United States. In 1992, a study to evaluate and synthesize data collected during these 26 investigations began. Selenium, boron, and molybdenum are the trace elements and DDT the pesticide most commonly found in surface water at concentrations exceeding chronic criteria for the protection of aquatic life. In six of the areas, the median selenium concentration exceeded the criterion. Aquatic- life criteria have not been developed for uranium, but the median uranium concentration exceeded the proposed Maximum Contaminant Level for drinking water in seven areas. A principal components analysis indicates that severity of selenium contamination is not related to the severity of contamination by boron, molybdenum, and arsenic. Arsenic, boron, molybdenum, and selenium concentrations are nearly the same in both filtered and unfiltered samples, which indicates that contaminant concentrations in filtered samples can be directly compared with biological-effects data developed using unfiltered samples. At a given site, selenium concentrations in surface water can change by an order of magnitude during the course of a year and from one year to another.