Water-quality data collected during water years 1970-90 (October 1 to September 30) for 83 surface-water sites and during 1970-92 for 395 ground-water sites in the 48,000 square mile Ozark Plateaus study unit of the National Water Quality Assessment Program were analyzed using selected descriptive and statistical methods. The water- quality data include nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus), suspended sediment, and suspended- solids data, and ancillary information such as fertilizer use, animal waste, sewage treatment plant, and land use. Statistically significant differences exist in surface-water quality that can be attributed to physiography, land use, and other effects. The sites that were considered to be substantially affected by sewage treatment plants had the largest concentrations of nutrients. Nutrient concentrations generally were larger at sites associated with agricultural basins than at sites associated with forested basins. Statistically significant differences existed in the quality of ground water that can be attributed to hydrogeologic and land-use effects. Nutrient concentrations generally were largest where the water source is indicated to be shallow in origin and where parts of the hydrogeologic units are in agricultural land-use areas. Water quality has changed at several surface-water sites since 1970. Nutrient concentrations appear to have increased at some sites and decreased at other sites. Causes of these apparent trends are not known, but many of the sites with apparent trends are in agricultural areas. Surface-water loads of nutrients and suspended sediment were affected by several factors including streamflow, climate, drainage area, reservoir operation, and inputs from point and nonpoint sources. Annual loads were largest in large basins, with large inputs of nutrients or sediment during periods of high streamflows at locations where reservoir operation effects are not substantial.