In 1991, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began to implement a full-scale National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. The long-term goals of the NAWQA program are to describe the status of and trends in the quality of a large, representative part of the Nation's surface- and ground-water resources and to identify the major natural and human factors that affect the quality of those resources. In addressing these goals, the program will provide a wealth of water- quality information that will be useful to policy makers and managers at the national, State, and local levels.
A major asset of the NAWQA program is that it will allow for the integration of water-quality information collected at several scales. A major component of the program is the study-unit investigation-the foundation of national- level assessment. The 60 study units of the NAWQA program are hydrologic systems that include parts of most major river basins and aquifer systems of the conterminous United States. These study units cover areas of 1,000 to more than 60,000 square miles and represent 60 to 70 percent of the Nation's water use and population served by public water supplies. Investigations of the first 20 study units began in 1991. In 1994, the Sacramento River Basin was among the second set of 20 NAWQA study units selected for investigation.