Benthic invertebrate communities are evaluated as part of the ecological survey component of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program. These biological data are collected along with physical and chemical data to assess water-quality conditions and to develop an understanding of the factors that affect water-quality conditions locally, regionally, and nationally. The objectives of benthic invertebrate community characterizations are to (1) develop for each site a list of tax a within the associated stream reach and (2) determine the structure of benthic invertebrate communities within selected habitats of that reach. A nationally consistent approach is used to achieve these objectives. This approach provides guidance on site, reach, and habitat selection and methods and equipment for qualitative multihabitat sampling and semi-quantitative single habitat sampling. Appropriate quality-assurance and quality-control guidelines are used to maximize the ability to analyze data within and among study units.