In 1991, the U.S. Congress established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to develop long-term, nationally consistent information on the quality of the Nation's streams and groundwater. Congress recognized the critical need for this information to support scientifically sound management, regulatory, and policy decisions concerning the increasingly stressed water resources of the Nation.
The long-term goals of NAWQA are to: (1) assess the status of water-quality conditions in the United States, (2) evaluate long-term trends in water-quality conditions, and (3) link status and trends with an understanding of the natural and human factors that affect water quality. These goals are national in scale, include both surface water and groundwater, and include consideration of water quality in relation to both human uses and aquatic ecosystems.
Since 1991, NAWQA assessments and findings have fostered and supported major improvements in the availability and use of unbiased scientific information for decisionmaking, resource management, and planning at all levels of government. These improvements have enabled agencies and stakeholders to cost-effectively address a wide range of water-quality issues related to natural and human influences on the quality of water and potential effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/xrel.pdf).
NAWQA, like all USGS programs, provides policy relevant information that serves as a scientific basis for decisionmaking related to resource management, protection, and restoration. The information is freely available to all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, industry, academia, and the public, and is readily accessible on the NAWQA Web site and other diverse formats to serve the needs of the water-resource community at different technical levels. Water-quality conditions in streams and groundwater are described in more than 1,700 publications (available online at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/bib/), and are documented by more than 14 million data records representing about 7,600 stream sites, 8,100 wells, and 2,000 water-quality and ecological constituents that are available from the NAWQA data warehouse (http://infotrek.er.usgs.gov/traverse/f?p=NAWQA:HOME:0). The Program promotes collaboration and liaison with government officials, resource managers, industry representatives, and other stakeholders to increase the utility and relevance of NAWQA science to decisionmakers. As part of this effort, NAWQA supports integration of data from other organizations into NAWQA assessments, where appropriate and cost-effective, so that more comprehensive findings are available across geographic and temporal scales.