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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program 7 Cooperation and Coordination Issues INTRODUCTION The national scope of the National Water Quality (NAWQA) Program and its potential to provide a nationwide perspective on the status, trends, and understanding of factors that affect water quality, have made it a focal point within the Water Resources Division (WRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Indeed, many local, state, and even federal agencies and organizations, many of which have not worked with the USGS in the past, now regularly promote the use of NAWQA data and information (though sometimes without a full understanding of their inherent limits and availability). Furthermore, the increased use and visibility of NAWQA data and information often occur in conjunction with attempts to influence the design or to cooperate to broaden NAWQA’s coverage. With a program of such scope, cooperation, coordination, and real collaboration with external agencies and organizations (e.g., related to budgets and staffing) should be priorities to optimize the massive data collection, as well as data use and interpretation, efforts. Indeed, every preceding chapter of this report notes examples of such cooperative efforts. The committee applauds the USGS for its work in this arena. In the committee’s view, NAWQA program staff have done an excellent job of establishing cooperative relationships within USGS and with external programs. These efforts have strengthened NAWQA and have improved the visibility and viability of the USGS as a whole. Cooperation has costs, however, particularly in staff time to keep effective communications in place. Also, while cooperative efforts are valued, NAWQA cannot and should not attempt to be all things to all people—or agencies.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program NAWQA must stay firm in its design to meet its national goals and should not change critical design plans to meet the diverse needs of the many federal, state, and local agencies that seek to participate in the program or utilize its data and information. Thus, NAWQA must uphold its careful balancing act to uphold its design principles while finding new ways to collaborate that build and improve the program as it enters Cycle II. Perhaps more importantly, such collaboration should strive to improve and strengthen other water-related programs to enhance the total knowledge of the nation’s water resources. To do this, other agencies that want to utilize NAWQA or to coordinate programs with NAWQA also have a responsibility to fully collaborate with the program (i.e., to give, not just take). As large as NAWQA is, its program resources are often too constrained to fully meet its national goals. Continued flat budgets or budget cuts will not allow NAWQA to meet its goals or to provide the information that Congress and other agencies desire without continued design changes and cutbacks. The significant scaling back of study units in Cycle II discussed in Chapter 2 is but one example. Further programmatic and design changes that can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of NAWQA in Cycle II are certainly warranted and should continue to be developed. However, providing a national perspective on the nation’s water quality requires adequate support. While Congress must recognize this, other agencies also have to contribute their due support, with staffing, fiscal, or in-kind support where possible, to help cover their unique needs and requests. The USGS also should try to ensure reasonable overhead to keep transaction costs affordable for cooperators. A potentially sensitive issue in cooperative programs can be ensuring that full and proper credit is given where credit is due. Often the largest or most visible program in a cooperative effort receives the majority of credit for its accomplishments, whether warranted or not. All cooperators need to be aware of this common and unfortunate situation to help ensure that ample credit is provided and directed to appropriate parties. To some observers, NAWQA has become synonymous with USGS water resources programs, particularly among those new to using USGS information. This cannot help but strain important internal relationships. NAWQA must continue to recognize and share credit with its internal and external partners. This chapter outlines several pertinent examples of cooperative efforts that are taking place within NAWQA. Through these examples, the committee hopes to address the various cooperation and coordination concerns and issues raised at committee meetings or during interviews and meetings with USGS-NAWQA personnel and others with a vested interest in NAWQA data and information. These examples address both benefits and problems for the program, illustrate typical management challenges, and hopefully, identify some new or expanded opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program NAWQA LIAISON COMMITTEES A particularly successful logistical component of NAWQA that began with its pilot studies was the development of local and national coordination and advisory groups. Establishment of individual study unit liaison committees as a component of NAWQA was a recognition by the USGS of the importance of obtaining local information and perspectives in water resource issues. In this regard, every water body and watershed within the United States has some sort of local constituency that should be included in the design, planning, and execution of such studies. The study unit liaison committees are able to make valuable contributions to NAWQA, assisting with local coordination, providing local knowledge and insight of water resources problems, and bringing other expertise into the design and review process. These groups are also some of the most important consumers of the detailed information generated by NAWQA at the study unit level (see Chapter 1 for a discussion of the typical membership of study unit liaison committees). It is essential that these committees be continued in Cycle II as currently planned. Particularly as Cycle II places more emphasis on cause-and-effect studies, local and regional expertise may become even more important. As noted in previous National Research Council (NRC) reports, NAWQA has in the past used the liaison committees more to obtain technical information than local policy information. The committee feels that this represents an area that can be better exploited by NAWQA personnel. NAWQA leadership has also internally developed a work group to assess the local liaison committee process and make recommendations for its improvement. Based on this committee’s observations, it would seem that the success of the local liaison committees has been highly variable. In some study units, the only real activities have been to hold infrequent meetings to present monitoring status and results, whereas in others, valuable dialogue has taken place, resulting in local, jointly funded projects. The national NAWQA Advisory Council was formed in 1991 as a panel of federal scientists representing agencies having an interest in water quality issues. The purpose of the council was to advise the USGS on plans and activities related to the relatively new NAWQA Program and the effectiveness of NAWQA in meeting national needs. The council sought to help ensure both the use of the best and most current scientific methods and the national relevance of the program’s findings. The council also served as a forum for the exchange of information about water quality-related activities being conducted by other organizations and identified opportunities to collaborate, transfer technology, and share information. In 1993, the structure of the council was changed to include nonfederal representatives from the Advisory Committee on Water Data for Public Use (ACWDPU). More specifically, the NAWQA Advisory Council was made a subcommittee of the ACWDPU that operated under the rules established by the
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Secretary of the Interior designates the membership of the ACWDPU. Its members are regional, state, and national organizations having a wide-ranging interest in water resources, including Native American groups, professional and technical societies, public interest groups, private industry, and the academic community. All member organizations were invited to designate a representative to serve on the NAWQA Advisory Council. The council met at least once per year from 1991 through 1997 (12 meetings in all). To improve the interaction between the USGS and external parties with an interest in the success of the NAWQA program, the national liaison structure was changed again in 1999. The NAWQA Advisory Council was replaced by the NAWQA National Liaison Committee (NLC). This new committee is convened as a subcommittee of the Interagency Advisory Council on Water Information and also operates under Federal Advisory Committee Act requirements. The new NLC is smaller than the council it replaced and includes several member organizations that use scientific information to make water policy and management decisions. In the opening meeting of the NLC, USGS staff noted that it views the new liaison committee as a catalyst for the scientifically informed examination of water quality issues and policy decisions. Benefits are anticipated to include enhanced application of NAWQA information in the policy context, identification and establishment of collaborative projects to benefit NAWQA and its liaison participants, and continuation of an open forum for discussing the consequences of scientific findings for water policy and policy options on water quality. Membership on the committee is expected to fluctuate over time as interested organizations’ priorities change and as NAWQA’s focus evolves. The NLC will meet as needed for specifically identified purposes. NAWQA staff will also work individually with members and participants to explore opportunities for mutually beneficial work and to conduct joint activities. The first two meetings of the liaison committee were held in 2000 in Washington, D.C. At these meetings, the USGS sought feedback on NAWQA’s urban water quality activities and on proposed themes for Cycle II. The committee recommends that the local and national liaison committees be continued as planned in Cycle II. NAWQA should also consider providing training as well as further information sharing (“lessons learned”) for study unit teams to make the local liaison efforts more beneficial for USGS and local users. USGS DISTRICT PROGRAMS The primary operational unit of the USGS water resources field programs (e.g., stream gaging) has been the local district offices, generally organized at the state level. The NAWQA program’s field operations also operate in and through these district offices. While NAWQA has brought new resources and opportuni-
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program ties to the districts, it also provides new stresses and management challenges. Overall, the relationship between district offices and NAWQA has been viewed as efficient and beneficial because it has brought resources to the local level. In addition, this relationship retains the details of management and staffing coordination at the local level, where such decisions can most efficiently be made. Such collaborative efforts, even though internal, require continued attention in Cycle II. Based on the committee’s investigations and deliberations during this study, there are two key areas of stress in which continuing dialogue is needed. The first is the management problems created by the fluctuation in resources and staffing that occurs between the high-intensity and low-intensity phases of NAWQA. The high-intensity phases require more staff and resources, but there may not be the resources (or work) to support this level of staffing in the same district during the low-intensity phase, thus requiring that staff move, or that other adjustments be made. Also, the planning cycles and budget decisions are sometimes not in phase, creating many uncertainties and anxieties. A second concern is that the district-level staff fully appreciate the national goals of NAWQA, and likewise that NAWQA study unit personnel listen to design and implementation concerns from the local expertise. As noted previously, although NAWQA’s design cannot be altered to meet every local need, local concerns must at least be acknowledged. The continued success of NAWQA must involve managing the “creative tension” of the joint effort between the districts and the national program staff. OTHER USGS WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH PROGRAMS The USGS must continue to foster a productive symbiosis among field monitoring and research programs such as NAWQA, the National Research Program (NRP), and the Toxic Substances Hydrology (“Toxics”) Program. To date, the interaction and collaboration among the NRP, the Toxics Program, and NAWQA have been clearly valuable for all three programs. Undoubtedly, the collaboration creates some amount of stress and tension because these programs must also, to some extent, compete for recognition and resources. The NRP and the Toxics Program have provided NAWQA with new methods and tools for investigations, as well as approaches to study designs. In turn, NAWQA has provided an avenue for national-scale testing for contaminants and testing of concepts from smaller-scale investigations. Internal funding has crossed between programs, and in some cases, staff have been shared. This internal interaction should clearly be continued and strengthened where possible and appropriate. Particularly, the increased focus in Cycle II on “understanding” (see Chapter 5) the major factors that affect water quality conditions and trends would seem to call for stronger interaction. Some logical examples of useful collaboration have become apparent during the committee’s investigations. For example, can the NRP help NAWQA investigate and understand the details of surface water-groundwater interaction relevant to water quality and unravel details of
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program processes in the hyporheic zone? Further, can methods be developed and routinely applied or tested within NAWQA to help develop knowledge in this important area and provide data to construct better models for future work? If the Toxics Program can validate sampling and analytical methods for assessing the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in water supplies, can these methods be applied in NAWQA to begin to assess their importance nationally? Increased collaboration among NAWQA, NRP, and the Toxics Program may also provide opportunities to help resolve management and staffing concerns that arise because of the timing and cycling of NAWQA efforts within and among USGS districts. Also, with an increased emphasis on studies concerning the understanding goal in Cycle II, expanded interaction and involvement with states and universities may also prove beneficial. These collaborative activities may be facilitated by furthering the existing relationship among NAWQA and various state Water Resources Research Institutes. Atmospheric Deposition (National Atmospheric Deposition Program) The National Trends Network (NTN) of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program is also operated by the USGS’s WRD, and sometimes NAWQA staff support these activities. The networks and programs were designed for different purposes, at different times, and were not designed to be coincident. The major connection, however, is that the NAWQA program utilizes data collected under the NTN. In particular, a task of most study units is to develop a nutrient budget (and mass balance) to help understand the major factors that affect nutrient loading and transport. NTN data serve as the major source of information on atmospheric loading for such constituents and have been used by NAWQA for local and national nitrogen assessments (e.g., Puckett, 1994). A limited number of NTN sites have also been sampled for mercury over time, and such data could be valuable for Cycle II assessments. Relationship Between NAWQA and NASQAN The National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) program began in 1973. Prior to NAWQA, NASQAN served as the sole USGS network for evaluating stream water quality at the national scale. In its original 1973 program, NASQAN had a gage at the downstream end of every accounting unit (i.e., major watershed) and included 500 stations by the late 1970s. However, these data were not widely used, and the program steadily shrank with the growing success of NAWQA. In 1996, the network was significantly redesigned using the Kendall’s tau statistical method to justify low-frequency measurements. This decision did not accommodate physical aspects of water quality variations, only statistical aspects. Many NASQAN stations have become NAWQA surface water sites. The NASQAN program now focuses exclusively on very large river basins.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program There are currently 40 monitoring stations scattered across 4 major river basins: 17 in the Mississippi basin; 9 in the Rio Grande; 8 in the Colorado; and 6 in the Columbia. Hooper et al. (1996) describes the NASQAN program redesign in greater detail. The current objectives of NASQAN are to characterize the concentrations and flux of sediment and chemicals in the nation’s largest river basins, to determine regional source areas for these materials, and to assess the effect of human influences on observed concentrations and flux (Hooper et al., 1996). NASQAN complements NAWQA by adding consistent measurements of concentrations and transport of constituents on the main stem of large rivers downstream of NAWQA study units. NASQAN further complements NAWQA by providing additional relational cause-and-effect data for interpreting water quality conditions (such as relationships among land use and contaminants) and trends in the largest rivers. NASQAN data could be used to test and verify regional inferences about water quality developed in NAWQA studies. Such comparisons might potentially help to evaluate how confidently NAWQA data can be extended to unmeasured areas and regional issues (see discussion on representativeness and extrapolation in Chapter 2). Although this complementary design can be effective, some coverage has been lost. Some surface water stations were dropped in basins intermediate in size between NAWQA and NASQAN, and coverage of coastal watersheds was lost except where NAWQA may include them. In some cases, the same location may be sampled by both programs. Ongoing coordination will be necessary, from shared station operation, through sampling protocols and ultimate data analysis. NAWQA program documents (Mallard et al., 1999) suggest that a standing committee will be formed to ensure communication and coordination between the programs. The committee recommends that such a coordinating body be created. COOPERATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES The USGS, in part through NAWQA, has developed some very important formal liaisons and cooperative programs with other federal agencies, particularly several national offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For example, USGS staff liaisons are in residence in the Office of Water and working in support of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments of 1996 (Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, OGWDW); the Clean Water Act (Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds); and the development of water quality standards and criteria (Office of Science and Technology). Other USGS staffs are in the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) helping to provide information and technical support about pesticide occurrence in water, as well as fate and transport perspectives. In general, USGS staff liaisons provide EPA with important scientific perspective in technical approaches to water quality assessments, development of regional nutrient criteria, and the identification of emerging con-
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program taminants that are, or should be, included on EPA’s Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). Such liaison work has provided important technical expertise to EPA and has also provided the USGS with important perspectives on EPA’s water-related responsibilities and corresponding information needs. Further, this has resulted in EPA’s providing funding to USGS to help jointly underwrite projects complementary to NAWQA, sometimes helping to fill funding gaps in NAWQA. For example, OPP has helped to support development of approaches to model and extrapolate NAWQA and NASQAN data to national estimates of pesticide occurrence in all watersheds (Larson and Gilliom, 2001). Further, OPP and USGS are jointly developing a study to sample and assess pesticides in water supply reservoirs, lakes, and finished drinking water. This study will help to address the shortcoming of NAWQA’s largely excluding lakes and reservoirs from monitoring as discussed in Chapter 2. The USGS and EPA cooperatively assessed the occurrence of arsenic and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in water to evaluate the need for regulatory action (Focazio et al., 1999; USGS, 2001; Welch et al., 2000; Zogorski et al., 1997). Development of the new Cycle II status theme on drinking water resources (see Chapter 3) is undoubtedly in part an outgrowth of the direct interaction of USGS water resources staff and EPA’s OGWDW programs. In particular, it is hoped that EPA’s knowledge of drinking water systems has helped USGS in the design for implementation of this theme. As a further component, NAWQA and EPA are developing a joint effort for USGS involvement in studies related to the new Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Regulation (UCMR) program required under the amended SDWA. The USGS also has developed a new Drinking Water Initiative that crosscuts NAWQA and other programs, involving state and local cooperative programs to evaluate source waters and public water system (PWS) vulnerability and other particular PWS problems. In addition, the USGS is working with EPA to improve the River Reach data files that are widely used for cataloging water quality data. Coordination to Identify Emerging Contaminants The USGS and NAWQA, in particular through staff liaisons, have worked with EPA to identify emerging contaminants that warrant consideration for regulation or monitoring to protect public health and maintain water quality. In this regard, EPA has found NAWQA data to be very useful for considering whether chemical contaminants included on the 1998 CCL represent a significant potential threat to drinking water supplies (e.g., EPA, 2001). The long list of contaminants being monitored in NAWQA is already providing information for consideration for future CCL lists, as well. In its interaction with EPA and other interested groups to assess new and emerging drinking water contaminants, NAWQA has also been responsive in reviewing whether such contaminants can be included in
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program its monitoring. For example, NAWQA is considering adding some contaminants that EPA has begun monitoring under the new UCMR (William Wilber, USGS, personal communication, 2001). In practice, NAWQA has taken the lead in gathering such data. Many of the analytical methods used in NAWQA are multiresidue methods (i.e., they can detect a broad spectrum of contaminants in a single sample). For example, USGS has broadened the monitoring of pesticides to include many of the feasible compounds that can be derived from a single sample, including many degradation products of parent pesticide compounds. Such environmental degradates have been of growing interest to EPA and the public health research community in recent years, and future data from NAWQA on the range of their occurrence will be critical to evaluate their potential importance. Also, even nontarget compounds that may appear in samples are periodically identified in the NAWQA program (e.g., using computerized searches of mass spectral libraries). For those non-target compounds that appear frequently, efforts have been made to include them as new targets, where appropriate (Miller and Wilber, 1999). Through just such a process, in 1991, the gasoline additive MTBE was discovered to be widely occurring in NAWQA and Toxics Program samples, and it was subsequently added to the USGS volatile organic compound (VOC) analyte list (see also Chapter 1). These data have played an important role in EPA’s and several states’ deciding to take a thorough review of MTBE’s impact on drinking water supplies and public heath. Furthermore, EPA and USGS have recently entered into a jointly funded program to conduct more detailed monitoring for MTBE in some critical states where it is suspected to be a greater problem (USGS, 2001). Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program As discussed in Chapter 2, the EPA’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) was initiated about the same time as NAWQA and was intended to monitor the status and trends in the nation’s ecological resources. This included some parallel goals concerned with the quality of surface and groundwater. There is no formal relationship between NAWQA and EMAP, in large measure because EMAP has not been fully developed or funded. Although a strategy for EMAP has been developed, there is no national implementation plan with which NAWQA can interface. Rather, most current EMAP activities are in the research mode and are regional in nature (commonly referred to as RE-MAP) (e.g., Hellkamp et al., 2000; Hess et al., 2000; Jones et al., 1997). However, NAWQA staff should consider coordinating with these future regional teams and activities as warranted.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program Coordination with Estuary Programs NAWQA, as discussed earlier (Chapters 2 and 3), does not assess coastal waters that include estuaries, partly because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has responsibilities for estuaries and has its assessment program. EPA, in conjunction with NOAA, also has established the National Estuary Program. NAWQA does collaborate with these programs (e.g., the Chesapeake Bay Program), however, and many NAWQA study units are relevant to estuarine water quality, being the upstream contributors of water and contaminants to the estuary. Thus, NAWQA monitoring data are of importance to estuarine studies. As noted previously in Chapter 3, NAWQA data were used to establish loadings to a number of areas in the recent assessment of nutrient enrichment in the nation’s estuaries. For these collaborative studies, coordination is established at the local and regional levels as related to the particular relevant study units. In some cases, NAWQA and the USGS have contributed special resources to the estuary studies, as noted in Box 7-1. NAWQA AND THE STATES States are increasingly becoming important users of NAWQA data. As discussed in Chapter 6, reports from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO, 2000) and others note that states could benefit from using NAWQA data in two required programs, the source water assessments under the SDWA and the water quality assessments (“305[b]” programs) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). States can also interact directly with the administration of NAWQA through the study unit liaison committees and can utilize NAWQA data and cooperation in many other programs ranging from nonpoint source programs to state pesticide management programs. More than 30 states are using USGS information for source water assessments, and at least 18 states use NAWQA data for water quality assessments (USGS, 2001). Examples are discussed below. Source Water Assessment Programs Several states have collaborated with USGS district office and/or NAWQA personnel to assess the vulnerability of their drinking water sources and public drinking water supply systems as required by Sections 1428 and 1453 of the SDWA Amendments of 1996 (see Box 7-2). More specifically, the amended SDWA requires states to develop, submit to EPA, and after approval, implement Source Water Assessment Programs (SWAPs). Under the SWAP, the states are required to complete assessments for all public water systems. A SWAP consists of three elements: (1) delineation of source water protection areas, (2) inventories of certain contamination sources, and (3) determination of susceptibility of PWSs
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program BOX 7-1 An Estuarine Model: DSM2 for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in northern California receives about 47 percent of California’s annual runoff mainly from the Sacramento River to the north and the San Joaquin River to the south. Waters exported from the delta serve as drinking water for more than 22 million people and about 45 percent of the irrigation needs in the state (CADWR, 1993). Outflow from the delta during high flow produces flushing action in San Francisco Bay and during low flow helps repel seawater intrusion. Delta waters support numerous fish and wildlife, some of them threatened and endangered species. There are more than 1,000 miles of levees protecting 67 islands from inundation, with a total surface area of about 690,000 acres. The management of delta waters for the environment and exportation is a source of continuing controversy. CALFED Bay-Delta Program, a joint state-federal effort, is seeking alternative measures to restore the delta habitat and provide water supply. CALFED is utilizing hydraulic simulation models to evaluate alternative management options. The State of California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR), a major participant in CALFED, has developed Delta Simulation Model II (DSM2) for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. (DSM2 is copyrighted by DWR and is available to the public [http://wwwdelmod.water.ca.gov/simulations/dsm2/dsm2.html].) DSM2 is comprised of three modules: DSM2-HYDRO for hydrodynamics, DSM2-QUAL for water quality, and DSM2-PTM for particle tracking. DSM2 may be interfaced with DICU (see below), which computes consumptive use by crops in the Delta islands and the quality of return flow, and the THM module, which estimates THM (trihalomethane) formation potential and speciation. DSM2-HYDRO and its salinity submodel can calculate water stages, flows, velocities and salinity in the river and estuary. DSM2-QUAL can simulate the reactivity and transport of carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand and dissolved oxygen, nitrogen species (organic N, NH3, NO2, and NO3), organic and dissolved phosphorus, and algal growth and respiration. DSM2-PTM simulates the transport and fate of individual particles in three dimensions and has been used to simulate, for example, the transport and mortality of eggs and larvae of striped bass. The DICU model considers water balance and water salinity on 142 delta island
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program subareas with about 250 channel irrigation diversion nodes and 200 irrigation drainage nodes. The THM module simulates DOC (dissolved organic carbon) and THM species, which are disinfection by-products formed from chlorination of drinking waters. Because of the prominent presence of bromine in seawater intruding into the delta, bromine distribution factors are also incorporated into the THM formation process. NAQWA has study units in two basins that serve as source water and also as the source of some of the nonpoint source pollutant inputs to the delta: the San Joaquin-Tulare River Basin and the Sacramento River Basin (combined into one study unit for Cycle II; see Chapter 2). NAWQA is conducting research on two constituents of concern in the delta: diazinon and methyl mercury. Diazinon is the most commonly used dormant insecticide spray to control wood boring insects in fruit trees. About 1 million pounds of diazinon is applied annually in January and February to about 0.5 million acres of orchards in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys (Domagalski et al., 1998). USGS monitoring has detected concentrations of diazinon exceeding aquatic toxicity reference levels (0.35 µg/L) during winter storm runoffs for several years in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers (Dubrovsky et al., 1998). The potential toxicity of diazinon to aquatic biota is being evaluated with seven-day bioassays using water fleas (Ceriodaphnia dubia). NAWQA is also monitoring elevated concentrations of trace metals, especially mercury from drainage waters from abandoned mines and tailings (e.g., quicksilver, copper, zinc, gold) in the Sacramento River watershed as well as sediment mercury laid down in the river system during hydraulic mining activities in the Gold Rush period (Domagalski et al., 1998). Of primary concern is the presence of methyl mercury in the river system and potential resulting toxicity to human health and wildlife. NAWQA has monitored for total mercury and methyl mercury in Cache Creek in the Coast Range and several tributaries in the Sierra Nevada, both in the Sacramento River watershed. Currently, the USGS and NAWQA are investigating mercury occurrences, methylation and demethylation, transport, and bioaccumulation in the aquatic food chain (e.g., Alpers et al., 1999, 2000). NAWQA personnel are interacting with CALFED in a number of programs such as water quality and ecosystem restoration. Because of the contentious water export and water quality issues, the newly merged Cycle II NAQWA study unit might also interface directly with DSM2 and help extend DWR’s DSM2 to pesticides (e.g., diazinon) and metals (e.g., methyl mercury).
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program BOX 7-2 New Jersey as a Case Study The state of New Jersey is working closely with local USGS personnel in developing its source water assessment program (SWAP). New Jersey’s SWAP (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/watersupply/swap2.htm) consists of six activities, the first of which is to identify current and future threats to the water supply. It involves the use of data collected under NAWQA, as well as other programs such as those conducted by the New Jersey Bureau of Safe Drinking Water. This activity is divided into three steps: (1) conducting a susceptibility assessment, (2) evaluating existing finished water quality to check the accuracy of the susceptibility assessment, and (3) determining the type of treatment in place at the water treatment facility. The susceptibility assessment is a predictive tool for managing protection, treatment, and monitoring of the source. It is based on the sensitivity of the drinking water source to contamination from land-use activities and the intensity of use of the contaminants within the delineated area. In order to assess the susceptibility, it is necessary to have the following information: (1) accurate locations of each source of drinking water and a delineation of the area of concern around the water source, (2) an evaluation of the intensity of contaminant use or occurrence in the delineated area, and (3) an analysis of the inherent hydrogeological sensitivity of the drinking water source. The susceptibility modeling process can be shown graphically as in the figure below. The models are being developed using all available existing water quality data on “raw” water for the contaminants of concern. This includes raw water monitoring data collected by the purveyor, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, or an outside agency such as USGS-NAWQA. Continuous distribution plots of contaminant concentrations are made to determine which sites exceed, or are close to exceeding, drinking water standards. Spatial patterns in contaminant occurrence are assessed using maps. Specific statistical analyses are performed to detect correlations between occurrence, and hydrogeologic sensitivity, and land-use intensity. In assessing hydrogeologic sensitivity for groundwater systems, variables such as aquifer type, distance from the outcrop area, soil type, and depth to the top of the casing perforations are considered. For surface water systems, the size of the drainage area and the soil loss potential of the area are assessed. To develop the “intensity” portion of the information needed, the models are used in combination with the contaminant source inventory. The correlation between occurrence and land-use intensity (e.g., residential, agricultural, golf
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program SOURCE: Eric Vowinkel, USGS. course, industrial) is evaluated for both groundwater and surface water systems. Based on the results of the statistical analyses combining sensitivity and intensity, a model is developed to predict the susceptibility of a water source to a particular class of contaminants. Individual sources are then given the designation “high,” “medium,” or “low” vulnerability. The value of conducting a susceptibility assessment for each source is to help identify which sources are more likely to be contaminated or are at risk of becoming contaminated as a result of increased contaminant release. It also identifies which types of contaminants pose a real threat to the water source, regardless of whether the contaminants are currently impacting water quality. After the model is developed, it is then tested using existing data to determine how accurate the model predictions are. The model can then be refined as new information becomes available. The eventual goal is to be able to predict vulnerability to a particular contaminant based on land-use data.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program to contamination (EPA, 1997). To assist in these efforts, EPA guidance to states typically suggests that the USGS (not necessarily NAWQA) is an important source of data and expertise (EPA, 1997): USGS can delineate drainage areas for surface water and contributing areas for wells. For larger drainage basins, delineations are already available in USGS hydrologic unit maps. Some GIS [geographic information system] layers are available to identify certain types of potential sources of contamination. USGS can also work with states to produce the required maps . . . USGS can use existing and new studies of watersheds, aquifers, land use, and contaminant fate and transport to determine susceptibility of drinking water sources to contamination. The USGS can also sample streams and wells to determine occurrence patterns and trends in contaminant concentrations. Such studies in Washington and New Jersey have resulted in savings, in the form of monitoring waivers, that more than covered the cost of the studies. Finally, USGS can participate in scientific review of source water protection. Such collaborative projects have already helped to improve the cost-effectiveness of the state monitoring programs. As noted above, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, after conducting a study of drinking water vulnerability with the USGS, determined that waiving monitoring for wells and intakes that are not vulnerable to pesticide contamination will save an estimated $5.1 million dollars per year (Vowinkel et al., 1996). Similarly, the Washington State Department of Health, working with local USGS personnel, obtained pesticide monitoring waivers for PWS wells that would save approximately $6.0 million dollars per year (Ryker and Williamson, 1996). Other states are joining in further collaborative efforts on formal source water assessments through NAWQA, district programs, and the USGS Drinking Water Initiative (USGS, 2001) Water Quality Assessments and TMDLs One of the current strategies devised by the EPA for meeting surface water quality standards involves the application of a total maximum daily load (TMDL). A TMDL is the maximum contaminant input that a surface water body can receive and still meet water quality standards (EPA, 2000c). TMDLs are intended to be the common basis for control of point and nonpoint sources of contamination for surface waters that are designated as impaired (see more below). The TMDL provisions of the Clean Water Act are designed to provide the second line of defense for protecting the quality of surface water resources. Section 402 of the CWA established the Point Source Program, which is aimed at restricting the discharge of pollutants from municipal and industrial dischargers. The basis of the program is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Each point source must obtain a discharge permit before it can discharge
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program wastes into surface water. The permit requires dischargers to comply with technology-based controls (uniform, EPA-established standards of treatment that apply to certain industries and municipal sewage treatment facilities) or water quality-based controls that invoke state numeric or narrative water quality standards. More than 200,000 discharge sources in the United States are subject to NPDES permits (EPA, 2000b). Every two years under Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, states are required to monitor water quality and report to Congress which waters are meeting water quality standards and which are not. When technology-based controls are inadequate for water to meet state water quality standards, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to submit to EPA a list of impaired waters and the cause of the impairment. Once listed as impaired, a TMDL may be required as well as the development of a plan to mitigate the impairment and meet the applicable water quality standard. Developing the TMDL involves calculating the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and allocating pollutant loads to the pollutant’s various sources. The TMDL for the watershed is the sum of individual wasteload allocations for point sources, load allocations for nonpoint sources and natural background, and a margin of safety. At present, there are more than 20,000 such impaired water bodies identified nationally, comprising more than 300,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 5 million acres of lakes (EPA, 2000a). Clearly, this ranges far beyond NAWQA’s resources and scope, and NAWQA study units cannot be defined by TMDL needs. The top impairments from the 1998 303(d) lists are sediment, nutrients, and pathogens (EPA, 2000c). Primacy agencies, such as states, territories, and authorized tribes, are responsible for establishing and implementing TMDLs. If these agencies fail to establish the TMDLs, the EPA may be required to do it. In brief, development of a TMDL requires prediction of the relationship between contaminant loading and the applicable water quality standard, and between source control measures and contaminant loads. This work is being undertaken largely at the state level, with the support of the EPA, but relatively few states have the resources available to provide the necessary scientific support for TMDL recommendations. Thus, an important opportunity appears to exist for NAWQA to assist the TMDL process, since TMDL assessments require the type of information that is typically produced by individual NAWQA study units. Actual monitoring data are a major component that NAWQA can contribute, both to the original assessment and to the determination of impairment, as well as to calibrate and evaluate model results. Also, the models and tools being developed by NAWQA may also prove useful to the states or primacy agencies. If a NAWQA study unit coincides with a TMDL watershed, the NAWQA data are likely to be of value for the original assessment and development of the TMDL, particularly if the TMDL contaminant and the water quality standard reflect variables that are being actively measured as part of the NAWQA pro-
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program gram. However even in non-study unit watersheds, NAWQA analyses of land use-water quality relationships can be useful for TMDL development through application of models such as SPARROW (Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes) (Preston and Brakebill, 1999). As discussed earlier, SPARROW is a regression-based model that has been used to develop locationand source-specific (“spatially referenced”) estimates of nutrient delivery from a watershed and estimates of nutrient loss during in-stream transport. Although the application of SPARROW requires a substantial amount of watershed and water quality data, the modeling approach is sound and the results can be extremely useful to states in determining TMDLs for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. SPARROW can also be used to identify pollutant contributions from various sources both inside and outside the watershed (e.g., atmospheric contributions). Although additional assessments and tools may be necessary to develop the actual load allocations on sources required by the TMDL process, USGS scientists should support opportunities to use NAWQA data and analyses and the SPARROW model to assist in the development of TMDLs (see Box 7-3). The committee reiterates that TMDLs are the states’ responsibility, and NAWQA resources and scientists should not be diverted to working on TMDLs beyond the data and technical assistance that they can readily provide to the states. In many cases, USGS assistance in the process should be provided through cooperative arrangements between the state and the USGS district office. Partly because TMDLs can become resource intensive and partly because the TMDL process must involve state and local policies, the committee feels strongly that TMDL development is not the general purview of NAWQA and the USGS. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The national scope of NAWQA, and its potential to provide a nationwide perspective on the status, trends, and major factors that affect water quality, make cooperation and coordination within USGS and externally, a priority to optimize the massive data collection, as well as data use and interpretation, efforts. In the committee’s view, NAWQA program staff have done an excellent job of establishing cooperative relationships within USGS and with external local, state, and federal programs. For example, the USGS and NAWQA are to be commended for developing liaison staff within EPA offices. USGS staff are providing EPA important scientific perspective, for example, in technical approaches to water quality assessments, development of regional nutrient criteria, and the identification of emerging contaminants. This has provided important technical expertise to EPA but has also provided USGS with important perspectives on EPA’s information needs. These efforts should be continued in Cycle II. Other agencies that wish to utilize NAWQA or coordinate water quality-related programs with NAWQA also have a responsibility to collaborate and provide resources with staffing, fiscal, or in-kind support where possible, to help
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program BOX 7-3 TMDLs—Neuse River Case Study One current example that illustrates the opportunities and constraints associated with SPARROW applications for TMDL development is in the Albemarle-Pamlico Drainages (ALBE) NAWQA Study Unit. The Neuse River estuary does not meet water quality standards for its intended use and has been listed as impaired on North Carolina’s 303(d) list. A nitrogen TMDL required for the Neuse in North Carolina is currently being developed through collaboration of the University of North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute and the North Carolina Division of Water Quality. The Neuse watershed is part of the Albemarle-Pamlico Study Unit, and the SPARROW watershed model is one of the models being used to assess the TMDL. Unfortunately, the timetable for the Neuse nitrogen TMDL is not compatible with the proposed schedule for development of a SPARROW model by USGS for the Neuse, since the ALBE study unit is not currently in its high-intensity period of monitoring. In recognition of this timing mismatch and of an opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration, NAWQA scientists have advanced their schedule for SPARROW development on the Neuse to provide assistance to North Carolina for TMDL development. This flexibility and cooperative spirit are to be applauded. Spatial data needs (e.g., land-use and digital elevation model data) to successfully implement SPARROW are substantial; without USGS-NAWQA assistance, it is doubtful that SPARROW would be ready in time to provide assistance for the Neuse TMDL. cover their unique needs and requests. The USGS also has to try to ensure reasonable overhead to keep transaction costs reasonable for cooperators. EPA and several states are already providing complementary or cost share funding to build on NAWQA’s base and are to be commended for these efforts. Although such cooperative efforts and design changes that can improve the efficiency of NAWQA are always warranted, providing the national perspective of the nation’s waters that most policy makers desire requires adequate support. Congress should recognize this. As large as NAWQA is, program resources are often too constrained to meet its national goals. Continued flat budgets and budget cuts will not allow NAWQA to meet its goals or to provide the results that Congress and other agencies desire without continued design changes and cutbacks. Further, NAWQA cannot become dependent on other cooperative agencies for operational budget support. This will result in loss of control over its national design and loss of perspective for its national goals.
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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program These cooperative efforts have strengthened NAWQA and have improved the visibility and viability of the USGS as a whole. However, such efforts also come at a price. Cooperation has a cost, particularly in staff time to keep effective communications in place. While cooperative efforts are valued, NAWQA cannot be all things to all people—or agencies. In the area of program coordination, the committee offers the following recommendations: NAWQA must stay firm in its design to meet its national goals, and should not change critical design plans to meet the diverse needs of the many federal, state, and local agencies that want to participate in the program or utilize its data and information. Thus, NAWQA must maintain its careful balancing act to uphold its design principles that draw other agencies to NAWQA, while finding ways to collaborate that build and improve NAWQA. Perhaps more importantly, such collaboration should strive to improve and strengthen other water-related programs to enhance the total knowledge of the nation’s water resources. For the continued success of NAWQA, the USGS must continue to manage the creative tension of the joint efforts among its internal programs— NAWQA, district offices, the NRP, the Toxics Program, and NASQAN. Based on the committee’s investigations and deliberations during this study, several potential areas of stress need continuing dialogue: (1) the management problems created by the fluctuation in resources and staffing that occurs between the high-intensity and low-intensity phases of NAWQA must be addressed; (2) district-level staff must fully appreciate the national goals of NAWQA, and likewise NAWQA personnel should listen to implementation concerns from their local expertise; (3) the coordinating committee for NAWQA and NASQAN should be implemented; and (4) NAWQA must continue to recognize and share full and proper credit with its partners. The local study unit and national liaison committees should be continued in Cycle II. NAWQA should consider providing training as well as further information sharing (“lessons learned”) for study unit teams to make the local liaison efforts more beneficial for USGS and local users. States are for the most part, and should increasingly be, important users of NAWQA data. Several states have developed collaborative efforts (generally, jointly funded) with the USGS on many aspects of water resource assessments that have proved very beneficial to the states and water utilities. The USGS should continue to foster the use of the good science produced by NAWQA with its state cooperators. Of particular note, USGS scientists should support opportunities to use NAWQA analyses and the SPARROW model for TMDL development. TMDLs, however, are the states’ responsibility. NAWQA resources and scientists should not be diverted to working on TMDLs beyond the data and technical assistance that they can readily provide to the states.
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