Methods for characterizing stream habitat as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Open-File Report 93-408
By: , and 



Stream habitat is characterized in the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program as part of an integrated physical, chemical, and biological assessment of the Nation's water quality. The goal of stream habitat characterization is to relate habitat to other physical, chemical, and biological factors to describe water-quality conditions. To accomplish this goal, environmental settings are described at sites selected for water-quality assessment. In addition, spatial and temporal patterns in habitat are examined at local, regional, and national levels. Although habitat characterization is an important component of a number of Federal, State, and local water-quality assessment programs, no current set of habitat evaluation procedures meets the objectives of the habitat assessment component of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program.

Evaluation of stream habitat is based on a spatially hierarchical framework that incorporates habitat data at basin, segment, reach, and microhabitat scales. This framework provides a basis for national consistency in collection techniques while allowing flexibility in habitat assessment within individual study units. Procedures are described for collecting habitat data at basin and stream segment scales that include use of geographic information system data bases, maps, and aerial photographs. Data collected at the stream reach scale include more than 34 riparian and instream habitat characteristics evaluated during onetime site visits, and surveys of the channel and riparian area during repeated sampling.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Methods for characterizing stream habitat as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 93-408
DOI 10.3133/ofr93408
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description iv, 48 p.
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