program’s future and have requested the input of the National Research Council (NRC) to help shape NAWQA activities during the program’s second decade of monitoring, called Cycle II. In this regard, a major concern of the USGS is to maximize program usefulness for a wide variety of decision makers, managers, and planners at all levels of government, as well as nongovernmental organizations, industry, academia, and the public sector. Indeed, data and information from the NAWQA program can be integral to research, monitoring, and regulatory activities at the local, state, and regional levels. In Cycle II, NAWQA will devote more resources to studying trends in water quality and understanding the factors that cause changes in water quality and fewer resources to water quality status assessments that comprised the majority of work in Cycle I. The USGS seeks NRC guidance in planning and executing this ambitious agenda as described by the committee’s statement of task, which is summarized below.
The overarching request to the committee was “to provide guidance to the U.S. Geological Survey on opportunities to improve the NAWQA program.” The USGS specifically asked the committee to begin with an initial assessment of the general accomplishments of the NAWQA program to date. Next, it asked the committee to focus on four particular areas of NAWQA as it enters Cycle II: (1) suggest methods to improve understanding of the causative factors affecting water quality conditions; (2) assess whether information produced in the program can be extrapolated to allow inferences about water quality conditions in areas not studied intensely under NAWQA; (3) examine current priority issues (i.e., pesticides, nutrients, volatile organic compounds, trace elements, and ecological synthesis) selected for broad investigation under NAWQA for completeness; and (4) make recommendations on aggregation and presentation of information generated at the study unit scale so that it is meaningful at the regional and national levels.
The USGS has sought advice from the NRC throughout the evolution of the NAWQA program. The NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) has provided advice to USGS regarding NAWQA four separate times in the past as the program has evolved from an unfunded concept in 1985 to a relatively mature and established program in 2001. The origin and relationship of these four reports and their major conclusions and recommendations are summarized briefly in Chapter 1 of this report. This report was written by the Committee to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program, comprised of 10 (originally 11) experts in hydrology, hydrogeology and geochemistry, water quality monitoring and modeling, aquatic ecology, public health microbiology, environmental economics, and statistics and information technology. The contents, conclusions, and recommendations of this report are based on a review of relevant technical literature, information gathered at and between five committee meetings, and the expertise of committee members. Furthermore, because of space limitations, this Executive Summary includes only the major conclusions and related recommendations of the committee in the