OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY NATIONAL WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

Committee to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program

Water Science and Technology Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.



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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY NATIONAL WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT PROGRAM Committee to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Water Science and Technology Board Division on Earth and Life Studies National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey under Grant No. 99HQAG0184. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-08305-2 Library of Congress Card Number: 2002101389 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievement of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program COMMITTEE TO IMPROVE THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY NATIONAL WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT PROGRAM GEORGE R. HALLBERG, Chair, The Cadmus Group, Inc., Waltham, Massachusetts MICHAEL E. CAMPANA, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque DANIEL B. CARR, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia LORRAINE L. JANUS, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Valhalla, New York JUDITH L. MEYER, University of Georgia, Athens KENNETH H. RECKHOW, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina MARC O. RIBAUDO, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. PAUL V. ROBERTS, Stanford University, California (until August 2000) KENNETH K. TANJI, University of California, Davis RICHARD M. VOGEL, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts MARYLYNN V. YATES, University of California, Riverside Staff MARK C. GIBSON, Study Director LAURA H. EHLERS, Study Director (until December 2000) ELLEN A. DE GUZMAN, Research Associate

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD RICHARD G. LUTHY, Chair, Stanford University, Stanford, California JOAN B. ROSE, Vice-Chair, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg RICHELLE M. ALLEN-KING, Washington State University, Pullman GREGORY B. BAECHER, University of Maryland, College Park KENNETH R. BRADBURY, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, Madison, Wisconsin JAMES CROOK, CH2M Hill, Boston, Massachusetts EFI FOUFOULA-GEORGIOU, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis PETER GLEICK, Pacific Institute, Oakland, California STEVEN P. GLOSS, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Arizona JOHN LETEY, JR., University of California, Riverside DIANE M. MCKNIGHT, University of Colorado, Boulder CHRISTINE L. MOE, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia RUTHERFORD H. PLATT, University of Massachusetts, Amherst JERALD L. SCHNOOR, University of Iowa, Iowa City LEONARD SHABMAN, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg R. RHODES TRUSSELL, Montgomery Watson Harza, Pasadena, California Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director LAURA J. EHLERS, Senior Staff Officer JEFFREY W. JACOBS, Senior Staff Officer WILLIAM S. LOGAN, Senior Staff Officer MARK C. GIBSON, Staff Officer M. JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate PATRICIA JONES KERSHAW, Study/Research Associate ELLEN A. DE GUZMAN, Research Associate ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant ANIKE L. JOHNSON, Project Assistant JON Q. SANDERS, Project Assistant

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Preface From the 1950s through the 1970s, events ranging from health advisories to burning rivers brought public attention and scrutiny to the deteriorating state of water quality in the United States. Local, state, and even regional monitoring data confirmed problems in many areas. Such information contributed to the evolution of the environmental movement and the development of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also became clear that the nation had no program that was providing an adequate or systematic monitoring network to assess the status of waters throughout the nation, particularly related to the contaminants that had become the major concern in this modern era. Some federal, state, and even local organizations had developed excellent water quality monitoring programs, but they were often focused solely on local problems, used different methods, or were looking at geochemical phenomena, not the contaminant issues of real concern. As such, they could not adequately be amalgamated to provide a national picture. In the 1980s, Congress, federal and state agencies, and industry began to call for development of national approaches to assess and track water quality and to answer such fundamental questions as, Is the quality of water across the nation getting better or worse? Since its inception in the late 1800s, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has become a major national contributor of scientific investigations and information about the nation’s waters. In particular, the USGS has long provided national and scientific leadership in the understanding of surface water hydrology, runoff, flood and discharge studies, water quantity issues, and more recently, groundwater hydrology. In the 1980s, the USGS was challenged to expand this role to address the quality of the nation’s waters, and it responded with the development of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. In fiscal year 1986,

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Congress appropriated funds for the establishment of the NAWQA pilot program. NAWQA has since evolved from a pilot program into a respected, mature national monitoring program of unprecedented scope—one for which hopes and expectations also run high. From its earliest concept to the current plans for the future, three goals drive NAWQA’s design and development: (1) status—to provide a nationally consistent description of the current water quality conditions for a large part of the nation’s water resources; (2) trends—to define long-term trends (or lack of trends) in water quality; and (3) understanding—to identify, describe, and explain (to the extent possible) the major factors that affect (and cause) observed water quality conditions and trends. Although the exact wording of the goals has been refined over time, these three goals are the organizing themes for NAWQA’s past, present, and future. Designing and implementing a national water quality assessment program is obviously a challenging task. Throughout the history of NAWQA, the USGS has periodically requested input and assistance from the Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) of the National Research Council (NRC) to provide programmatic reviews of NAWQA or its key components—a reflection of the USGS’s ongoing concern to ensure the quality of scientific approaches for this important program. In 1999, the NRC was again approached to have WSTB convene a committee of experts to assist the continued development of NAWQA. For this study, the committee was charged to provide guidance to the USGS on opportunities to improve the NAWQA program. More specifically, the committee was to conduct an initial assessment of general accomplishments in the NAWQA program to date by engaging in discussions with program scientists and others such as users of NAWQA products and by reviewing USGS internal reports on opportunities to improve NAWQA. The statement of task notes that the four main activities of the study committee was then to: (1) recommend methods for the improved understanding of the causative factors affecting water quality conditions; (2) determine whether information produced in the program can be extrapolated so as to allow inferences about water quality conditions in areas not studied intensely in NAWQA; (3) assess the completeness and appropriateness of priority issues (e.g., pesticides, nutrients, volatile organic compounds, trace elements) selected for broad investigation under the national synthesis component of the program; and (4) describe how information generated at the study unit scale can be aggregated and presented so as to be meaningful at the regional and national levels. Though not specifically noted in the committee’s statement of task, the timing of this latest request carried with it an imperative implicit in its initial charge to “provide guidance to the U.S. Geological Survey on opportunities to improve the NAWQA program.” As the committee was being formed, NAWQA was completing its first decade of extensive nationwide monitoring (called Cycle I) and refining plans for its second decade (Cycle II). Cycle I focused on status assessments (also called occurrence and distribution assessments) that define the condi-

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program tion of the water resources throughout the nation. Defining status is an important and sometimes daunting task by itself, but Cycle II must now move beyond and build upon these status assessments to begin assessment of water quality trends and to further our scientific understanding of the why and how behind water quality status and trends. These goals are integral to the grand design of NAWQA and largely reflect the charge that policy makers have placed on NAWQA since its inception. As noted in this report, if there are substantive opportunities to improve NAWQA, then this is an ideal time to do so as this new round of monitoring and studies is about to begin. The members of this committee brought a wide range of water resources expertise and a range of experience in interacting with NAWQA that made for enlivened and enlightening discussion throughout and ultimately led us to the forward-looking recommendations contained herein. Some members have had associations with NAWQA since its very inception, including service on earlier NRC committees’ reviewing NAWQA (which provided institutional memory and perspective); other members were primarily users and consumers of NAWQA data and reports. The committee held five deliberative meetings; at four of these meetings the committee heard presentations from and engaged “in discussions with program scientists and others such as users of NAWQA products,” as required in its statement of task. The committee did so, not just to “conduct an initial assessment of general accomplishments,” but also to gather testimony and insight on where the opportunities existed to improve NAWQA. Throughout the course of the study, committee members personally visited with NAWQA staff, particularly field (study unit) staff; other USGS (non-NAWQA) personnel, other local, state, and federal agency “users” of NAWQA data and information; and other research users, casting a wide net for input to the deliberative process. The committee also collectively reviewed scores of NAWQA-related reports—both as users and to support these deliberations. The committee thanks several persons external to the USGS who nonetheless provided highly informative and useful presentations regarding their collective experiences with the NAWQA program at the first three committee meetings, including: Margarete Heber, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Emery Cleaves, Maryland Geological Survey; Greg Woodside, Orange County (California) Water District; Karen Schaffer, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; and Jim Reilly, New Jersey Office of State Planning. We would particularly like to thank the USGS NAWQA staff as a whole, particularly Tim Miller, Bill Wilber, Bob Gilliom, and Carol Couch, for answering our many inquiries and requests for reports and documents. The committee also thanks the NRC WSTB staff for their support and leadership. When the study was initiated, Laura Ehlers was the study director. When she had to move to other responsibilities in December 2000, Mark Gibson assumed the study director post. We thank them both for their support and leadership. In particular, we thank Mark for his significant contributions to the report and efforts to bring the study to completion. Ellen

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program de Guzman, research associate with the WSTB, provided excellent staff support throughout the study. We also thank former committee member Paul Roberts of Stanford University for his past insights and contributions, many of which carried over into this report. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Susan Davies, Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Don Epp, Pennsylvania State University; Daniel Loucks, Cornell University; David Moreau, University of North Carolina; Don Siegel, Syracuse University; Kent Thornton, FTN & Associates; and Robert Ward, Colorado Water Resources Research Institute. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Henry J. Vaux, University of California. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. The committee hopes that this report will help to strengthen NAWQA both as it enters its second decade of nationwide water quality monitoring and assessment and, hopefully, beyond. NAWQA has already become the premier program assessing status and trends of water quality at a national level. Yet the program strives to continue to improve its efficiency, visibility, and above all, utility, which the committee strongly supports and encourages. Scientists, policy makers, and legislative leaders must recognize that identifying and truly understanding water quality status and trends is a long-term undertaking, requiring long-term support. Even when the answers are unexpected or not popular, such programs must be able to count on long-term and adequate support to evaluate the ultimate performance of policy decisions and the effects of society on our important water resources. GEORGE R. HALLBERG Chair, Committee to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   INTRODUCTION   17     Overview of Cycle I of NAWQA,   22     Initial Assessment of NAWQA Results and Accomplishments,   31     Introduction to Cycle II of NAWQA,   37     Conclusions,   39     References,   40 2   TRANSITION FROM CYCLE I TO CYCLE II: REPRESENTATIVENESS OF STUDY UNITS   42     Introduction,   42     Representativeness of the Study Unit Approach,   46     Lakes, Reservoirs, Coastal Waters, and Permafrost,   53     Surface Water and Groundwater,   56     Conclusions and Recommendations,   57     References,   58 3   NAWQA CYCLE II GOALS—STATUS   61     Introduction,   61     Resources Not Previously Sampled and Drinking Water Sources,   62     Contaminants Not Previously Sampled,   68     Importance of Conducting Sediment Monitoring,   79     Conclusions and Recommendations   86     References,   89

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program 4   NAWQA CYCLE II GOALS—TRENDS AND STATISTICAL SUPPORT FOR UNDERSTANDING   93     Introduction,   93     Design of Water Quality Monitoring Networks and Programs,   95     Evaluation of Trends in Water Quality,   100     Nonexperimental Approaches to Enhance Scientific Understanding,   104     Effects of Urbanization,   105     Response to Agricultural Management Practices,   110     Conclusions and Recommendations,   115     References,   117 5   NAWQA CYCLE II GOALS—UNDERSTANDING   121     Introduction,   121     Role of Models in Understanding Cause and Effect,   124     Proposed Implementation Approach for the Understanding Goal of Cycle II,   131     Themes and Objectives of Cycle II Understanding Goal,   133     Conclusions and Recommendations,   153     References,   158 6   COMMUNICATING NAWQA DATA AND INFORMATION TO USERS   162     Introduction,   162     Information Communicated by NAWQA,   163     Methods of Communicating Results,   165     Policy Relevance of NAWQA,   171     Conclusions and Recommendations,   176     References,   178 7   COOPERATION AND COORDINATION ISSUES   182     Introduction,   182     NAWQA Liaison Committees,   184     USGS District Programs,   185     Other USGS Water Resources Research Programs,   186     Cooperation with Other Agencies,   188     NAWQA and the States,   191     Conclusions and Recommendations,   198     References,   201 8   THE FUTURE OF NAWQA   203     Four Crosscutting Issues,   205     NAWQA—Past, Present, and Future,   210     NAWQA and Future Roles and Opportunities for the USGS,   211

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program     APPENDIXES         A Extracts from Study-Unit Design Guidelines for Cycle II of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA)   217     B Biographical Information   234

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