8
The Future of NAWQA

The final chapter of this report opens with the pretentious title, “The Future of NAWQA.” While the report title and the committee’s statement of task clearly indicate issues that will affect the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program and staff in the future, they do not fully convey the potential importance of this programmatic review. In the last decade-and-a-half, NAWQA has progressed from a sound concept to a mature program of exemplary quality and importance. NAWQA has led the way to begin the critical, sound scientific assessment of the quality of the nation’s waters. Because of this initial success, NAWQA now carries with it high expectations from many other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as policy makers and legislators. At this juncture, NAWQA is in a critical period, the transition from Cycle I, its first decade of nationwide monitoring, to Cycle II, its planned second decade, when many aspects of the promise of NAWQA must come to fruition.

From its earliest concept to the current plans for the future, three goals have driven 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 their exact wording has been refined over time, these three goals are the organizing themes for NAWQA’s past, present, and future. Not surprisingly, Cycle I of NAWQA focused primarily on the status goal. While this is certainly an important and often daunting task at NAWQA’s scale, Cycle II must now move beyond water quality conditions of the nation and begin more substantive assessment of long-term water quality



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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program 8 The Future of NAWQA The final chapter of this report opens with the pretentious title, “The Future of NAWQA.” While the report title and the committee’s statement of task clearly indicate issues that will affect the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program and staff in the future, they do not fully convey the potential importance of this programmatic review. In the last decade-and-a-half, NAWQA has progressed from a sound concept to a mature program of exemplary quality and importance. NAWQA has led the way to begin the critical, sound scientific assessment of the quality of the nation’s waters. Because of this initial success, NAWQA now carries with it high expectations from many other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as policy makers and legislators. At this juncture, NAWQA is in a critical period, the transition from Cycle I, its first decade of nationwide monitoring, to Cycle II, its planned second decade, when many aspects of the promise of NAWQA must come to fruition. From its earliest concept to the current plans for the future, three goals have driven 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 their exact wording has been refined over time, these three goals are the organizing themes for NAWQA’s past, present, and future. Not surprisingly, Cycle I of NAWQA focused primarily on the status goal. While this is certainly an important and often daunting task at NAWQA’s scale, Cycle II must now move beyond water quality conditions of the nation and begin more substantive assessment of long-term water quality

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program trends and further our scientific understanding of the why and how behind water quality status and trends. All three goals are a major part of the grand design of NAWQA and are central to the charge that policy makers have placed on NAWQA since its pilot-scale origins in the 1980s. Indeed, if there are substantive “opportunities to improve NAWQA,” this is the ideal time to do so—when the future of NAWQA is now. Thus, the committee hopes that the timing of this report can contribute to the future of NAWQA—a future that has clearly become of widespread importance to the nation. As discussed in Chapter 1, in concert with NAWQA leadership, the committee was asked to spend considerable time considering and discussing NAWQA Planning Team (NPT) and NAWQA Cycle II Implementation Team (NIT) planning documents and guidance reports.1 This ultimately became the crux of the committee’s focus. While the statement of task includes four particular issues (defined below), the committee decided early in the study that the operational and organizational theme for the report had to reflect the broadest charge of the statement of task—to “provide guidance to the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] on opportunities to improve the NAWQA program.” (The first component of the statement of task—to provide an initial assessment of the program’s general accomplishments to date—is covered in Chapter 1.) In this regard, many of the conclusions and recommendations of this report go beyond those implied by a strict reading of the statement of task. Furthermore, in presenting such a comprehensive programmatic overview, the committee deemed it necessary to make some general comments about budgets and resources where pertinent to the scope of the proposed changes and additions to the NAWQA program. It is important to state that the four particular statement-of-task issues are intermixed throughout the NIT plans and guidance for Cycle II, and these plans are also organized around the three major goals of NAWQA. To try to ensure its greatest utility, the committee organized much of this report around the same structure as that used in the NAWQA planning and implementation documents for Cycle II and has addressed those four particular issues in various, appropriate places throughout the report. Thus, the report’s organization is essentially a blend of the NAWQA implementation plans for Cycle II and the committee’s statement of task. The committee feels that this organization is both functional and logical so that the report can more directly address issues raised in NIT guidance reports. In this chapter, the committee puts the report’s findings in a broad context that includes three major components. First are the four particular issues from the statement of task and how the committee specifically addressed them throughout the report. The second component includes some of the broader concerns and conclusions throughout the report regarding the future of NAWQA. Last is the 1   Most especially Gilliom, R., et al., 2000. Study-Unit Design Guidelines for Cycle II of the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA). U.S. Geological Survey NAWQA Cycle II Implementation Team. Draft for internal review (11/22/2000). Sacramento, Calif.: U.S. Geological Survey.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program relationship of this report’s findings to the conclusions of another recent National Research Council (NRC) report, Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey.2 That report presents the conclusions and recommendations of the NRC Committee on Future Roles, Challenges, and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey. NAWQA itself is a major program within the Water Resources Division of the USGS, and hence this committee’s assessment of NAWQA is a microcosm of these larger issues. Also, some recommendations in this report likely go beyond NAWQA’s responsibilities and/or capabilities, and these should be addressed to the broader programs of the USGS. In this regard, the committee places its conclusions and recommendations in the context of that broader NRC report in the hope that they will enhance the utility of both reports. FOUR CROSSCUTTING ISSUES The full statement of task that was developed to initiate this study reads as follows: The committee will provide guidance to the U.S. Geological Survey on opportunities to improve the NAWQA program. The committee will 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 four main activities of the study committee will then be 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, and 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. As noted previously, while these four specific issues are indeed addressed by the committee, they cut across the three continuing NAWQA goals as related to Cycle II and are thus addressed throughout the report. Not only do these four issues crosscut the three goals and related components of planned Cycle II NAWQA investigations, but the issues themselves are interrelated. The following section summarizes some key findings related to these four issues. It is important to note that this chapter does not repeat or reiterate every conclusion and recommendation from this report but rather tries to provide some highlights 2   National Research Council (NRC). 2001. Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program with an emphasis on more overarching issues. The reader should refer to the individual chapters and the Executive Summary for a comprehensive presentation of the report’s conclusions and recommendations. Improved Understanding of the Causative Factors Affecting Water Quality Conditions (Issue 1) Chapter 5 of this report is devoted to a discussion of the understanding goal of NAWQA for Cycle II and its themes and related objectives to address cause-and-effect issues. Many sound approaches proposed by NAWQA staff have already been developed in Cycle I and should provide a solid foundation for subsequent development and implementation in Cycle II—particularly in key areas such as contaminant fate and transport, groundwater-surface water interactions, and stream ecosystem studies. These are important issues that should be priorities for targeted studies, as discussed in Chapter 5. Understanding causative factors is such a broad topic that generalizations are difficult except to note the importance that modeling will have to play. As Chapter 5 states, the use of models of various kinds and complexities will be an important component of these Cycle II studies. Models, in a simple sense, can help to organize the conceptual framework (e.g., mass balance) and to organize one’s thinking about an environmental system. Models represent conceptual and mathematical relationships between the observations that we interpret as cause and effect. In a quantitative sense, they can be used as tools for diagnosis and explanation of the underlying mechanisms, helping to test hypotheses associated with the fate and transport of pollutants in the environment. Standardizing some aspects of the modeling approaches used within NAWQA should also be done to facilitate comparisons among different study units (which can assist aggregation of data; see issue 4). As important as modeling can be, however, it remains a tool that does not replace field work and the importance of a rigorous field design. As discussed in Chapter 5, many aspects of the planned Cycle II understanding studies have not yet been described in sufficient detail for the committee to definitively comment on them. Any cause-and-effect study will have unique aspects related to local conditions, hence, many details must logically come from the study units themselves to assess the appropriate topics and design for the field area. These cause-and-effect studies must, of necessity, be smaller and more focused than many other components of NAWQA. Because the resources to conduct such studies in Cycle II are likely to be constrained, they will also have to be carefully prioritized: a few, well-designed, intensive studies on a narrow topic will likely be better than diluting resources among too many study units. In this regard, the Cycle II understanding studies represent a prime area in which NAWQA may benefit from cooperative work with other federal agencies, particularly with state, local, and academic collaborators who are likely to already be involved with focused cause-and-effect studies. Such thematic studies will likely

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program have considerable local interest (e.g., cost sharing) and perhaps considerable local expertise (e.g., joint studies), as well as possible field installations, to build on. Despite the continuing importance that this committee (and past NRC committees) places on the appropriate use of models in NAWQA, a major recommendation is that NAWQA (and USGS water programs in general) redirect their modeling efforts. Many current modeling efforts are rapidly becoming too ambitious, complex, and overparameterized. The committee feels strongly that more focus should be placed in Cycle II on developing and using “parsimonious” models—models that are in balance with data needs and incorporate simpler mechanistic expressions and understanding of hydrogeologic systems that can be supported with available data. Extrapolation of NAWQA Information to Areas Outside NAWQA (Issue 2) and Aggregation of Study Unit Information to Regional and National Levels (Issue 4) Statement-of-task issues 2 and 4 are, in part, interrelated and, as such, are discussed together. Information pertinent to these issues is discussed throughout this report. The first key assessment of these issues is presented in Chapter 2. As noted in that chapter, NAWQA is not a “statistically” designed sampling program (i.e., not based on probabilistic, random sampling theory); thus, its results are not statistically representative of the nation’s waters. In other words, NAWQA results cannot simply be aggregated to provide, for example, a national mean concentration of some contaminant that can be compared over time. However, a more purely statistical design does not necessarily allow for important cause-and-effect studies or for assessment of many factors that affect water quality trends. In neither circumstance is extrapolation to unsampled areas a straightforward or easy task. With the extensive monitoring and nationwide sample that NAWQA does collect however, it can make insightful and important statements about the status and trends of water quality throughout the nation. Yet before even this can be achieved, it is important to understand how representative NAWQA study units are of the nation’s watersheds and aquifers. This was an important consideration because of the reduction from 59 (monitored and planned) study units in Cycle I to the 42 study units planned for Cycle II (see Figures 1-1 and 2-1, respectively). As discussed in Chapter 2, NAWQA has done an excellent job of iteratively utilizing hydrologic setting regions, coupled with a linear programming approach and expert judgment-based semiquantitative analyses to optimize the reduced number of study units planned for Cycle II. For this reason, the NAWQA study units planned for Cycle II are clearly representative of a “large part of the nation’s water resources,” but continual care must be taken to present the data correctly in these terms. Because NAWQA study units do represent such a large and significant sample of the nation, there is considerable potential for extrapolation and

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program aggregation of their data and information. With all of the supporting and ancillary data that are collected, both regression models (e.g., SPARROW [Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes]) and other physical or process models that use causative factors can be employed to extrapolate to unsampled areas, with some important caveats. As discussed in Chapters 4 and 5, uncertainty in the use of such models should be assessed, as well as standard sources of variability. As discussed in Chapter 4, NAWQA’s consistent sampling regimen and analytical protocols and its integrated approach to network design provide a good baseline that minimizes many problems that can make extrapolation and regionalization problematic. As noted, the USGS has been a leader in the regionalization of hydrologic data, which has involved both aggregation and extrapolation of streamflow data in particular. NAWQA should continue to build on this experience and can adapt various statistical approaches (e.g., SPARROW) to strengthen assessments and extrapolation. To address many of these issues, as well as statistical and model issues for understanding, as recommended in Chapter 5, NAWQA should establish a statistical model support team (perhaps as a subset of the Hydrologic Systems Team [HST]) to address aggregation and extrapolation issues, including parsimonious and adaptive models, new statistical techniques (e.g., Bayesian methods, Kalman filtering), and uncertainty. Also, issues of representativeness should continue to be explored in Cycle II. Although NAWQA has carefully documented certain factors of what is and is not represented in its watersheds and aquifers (e.g., agricultural practices, urbanization, drinking water sources), many factors are not clearly described. For example, how representative are the study units of the petrochemical and forest products industries? Such questions might have to be asked and answered for some specific data and information uses. As discussed earlier, in relation to the understanding goal of NAWQA for Cycle II, the committee recommends some redirection of effort in model development and use. Some of the details (see Chapters 4 and 5) are also pertinent to these issues. Much of Chapter 6 is also pertinent in discussing information dissemination and policy relevance of NAWQA data and information. Through careful and consistent use of language and presentation, these data and information can be (and have already been) aggregated and made relevant to the assessment of national polices that affect water quality. It is important to state that the committee has struggled with questions about the meaning of “regional” extrapolation of data throughout its deliberations, and to its knowledge the term has never been concisely defined. By many definitions, many study units are regional (multistate) in nature; thus, their findings are pertinent to such regions. For broader regions, the same caveats and suggestions made regarding national aggregation are warranted. For example, NAWQA has well established how it represents agricultural and urban ecosystems, and comparisons at these regional levels are warranted (with the caveats that the sample is not statistically represen-

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program tative). As in the prior example, water quality data should not be used to directly compare conditions from areas dominated by the petrochemical industry versus forest products utilization without first establishing how representative the study units are for those characteristics. These are also issues that can benefit from increased collaboration and cooperation. Other federal, state, and local agencies can link to NAWQA to help fill voids in unstudied areas or unstudied water quality issues. Although such agencies should already recognize this opportunity, NAWQA staff can also promote links to the program to identify and address further questions. NAWQA already has excellent examples, such as its work with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff on extrapolating pesticide occurrence in surface waters or assessment of reservoirs for pesticide occurrence (see Chapters 2, 3, and 7 for further information). Completeness and Appropriateness of National Synthesis Priority Issues (Issue 3) Statement-of-task issue 3 is addressed primarily in Chapter 3. The committee strongly supports the established national synthesis topics—pesticides, nutrients, volatile organic compounds, and trace elements—and commends NAWQA for its groundbreaking work in these areas. The committee also strongly supports the recent priority allocation of NAWQA staff and resources for ecological synthesis that began late in Cycle I. This represents an important area in which NAWQA can make significant contributions. In addition, the committee strongly recommends that NAWQA take a leadership role in addressing sediments in surface waters as a future national synthesis topic. This is a critical national water quality issue that NAWQA is well suited to address. Although NAWQA may not currently have the sediment data it might desire or the resources to fully address this issue, it should do the most it can with the data it has already collected and plans to collect in Cycle II, both in direct sediment measures and through its habitat and ecological assessments. Further, the USGS could also provide a leadership role for other agencies and organizations to find collaborative ways to address this important national water quality issue. Other related priority topics and national issues are addressed in Chapters 3, 4, and 5. The committee supports the Cycle II emphasis on addressing resources important for drinking water and conducting more detailed assessment of pathogens and microbiological aspects of water quality. However, the committee strongly recommends that the USGS not get into the highly contentious area of human health risk assessment or expend resources on ecotoxicology programs. Further details on these topics are provided in the aforementioned chapters and are summarized comprehensively in the Executive Summary. In general, the committee feels that NAWQA has struck an appropriate balance in many of these water quality status areas. As discussed further below, NAWQA must struggle to

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program proactively identify and address emerging water quality issues but must not get caught up in a reactive mode of responding to the “contaminant of the day.” NAWQA—PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE The design and management of NAWQA and its past, present, and future success represent an ongoing struggle for program balance, and this is reflected in the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. As noted above, NAWQA must continue to struggle to find the appropriate balance of efforts and resources between the three primary goals of status, trends, and understanding as it enters the second decade of nationwide monitoring. The committee fully expects that NAWQA will continue to exhibit foresight and take a lead in studying emerging water quality issues and contaminants and will avoid expending unwarranted resources on a contaminant-of-the-day approach. As another exemplary balance issue, the committee notes the very important contributions NAWQA can and should make in biological assessments and ecological synthesis in surface waters, yet the committee also strongly recommends that NAWQA not embark on an ecotoxicology program (Chapter 5). This should be dealt with in collaboration with USGS’s Biological Resources Division. Furthermore, although NAWQA must strive to be responsive to water quality policy and regulatory needs, it cannot be driven or controlled by these needs—thus epitomizing the struggle of doing “good science” in the public policy arena. In this regard, the committee commends NAWQA for doing an excellent job of balancing good science with policy needs in the face of flat budgets. However, NAWQA supporters, users, policy makers, and Congress itself should be made aware of the fine balancing act this requires and should be supportive of the dilemma it creates for operating such a program. NAWQA has gone beyond the simple monitoring of regulated contaminants, such as providing important and insightful data on the occurrence of pesticide degradation products and the common gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), for example. While it is providing important data and tools for states to prepare their total maximum daily load (TMDL) assessments as required under the Clean Water Act (see Chapter 7), NAWQA cannot and should not prepare TMDLs for states. NAWQA is also providing important information to the non-scientific community for resources management and policy development and assessment, yet it must first and foremost stay true to its scientific design and goals. Many of these water quality findings were already known prior to NAWQA; however, NAWQA has provided a national scope and scale to issues whose importance should not be underestimated. NAWQA is providing important national water quality leadership, yet it must periodically stop and listen to the good science its collaborative partners and colleagues are developing so that the program can continue to grow and improve its service to the nation. How-

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program ever, as noted elsewhere in this report, NAWQA must remember that it cannot and should not seek to be “all things to all people.” NAWQA must also balance its work within the context of the agency that provides its charter, the USGS. As noted previously and discussed in greater detail below, while this committee was deliberating and writing its report, a different NRC committee published a report to help improve the USGS as a whole as it begins its third century of service to the nation. As such, this report’s conclusions and recommendations should be placed within the context of that broader report in the hope that the utility of both reports will be enhanced. NAWQA AND FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE USGS The aforementioned NRC report Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey (see footnote 2) addresses many scientific, technical, and management issues important to the mission of the USGS as a whole. Its conclusions and recommendations seek to identify important opportunities for maintaining and strengthening the USGS. Below, the committee presents select conclusions and recommendations from that report in an italicized bulleted list and provides some summary comments pertinent to the NAWQA program. Furthermore, the committee has grouped and reordered the conclusions and recommendations for ease of discussion in this chapter. The USGS is a vitally important provider and coordinator of information related to critical issues in the natural sciences. The USGS should provide national leadership and coordination in 1) monitoring, reporting, and where possible, forecasting critical phenomena; 2) assessing resources; and 3) providing geospatial information. The USGS should provide national leadership in the provision of natural resource information. This will help the United States understand its future resource needs. The NAWQA program is an excellent example of these conclusions and recommendations. NAWQA is providing key national leadership in monitoring, reporting, and assessing the quality of surface water and groundwater resources across the nation. Furthermore, NAWQA is playing a vital role in balancing its good science with responsiveness to policy and regulatory needs. This is a vital function. It has long been a policy maxim that good water quality monitoring is necessary to assess status, trends, and understanding and that such monitoring is best performed by a science (not a regulatory) agency. Once such monitoring is tied to regulators it becomes suspect (i.e., the analogy of the fox guarding the hen house), and regulatory monitoring typically cannot have the breadth and foresight (or often the authority) to address emerging water quality problems. Independent monitoring and data analyses are vital to provide unbiased input into “govern-

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program ment performance and review.” Congress and the U.S. Department of the Interior have to ensure support for such independent science, even when it reports data and information that are unpleasant or unexpected. The other NRC committee also noted that the USGS has long provided national scientific leadership in areas such as surface water hydrology. Hopefully, in concert with NAWQA, the USGS can provide the further leadership needed in the science of water quality. Also, with the USGS as a recognized source of high-quality spatial information, it is hoped that NAWQA can strengthen the way it provides electronic data and information and further the evolution of interactive analytical information systems. The USGS is evolving from an agency that was organized primarily to discover what is out there, to one that tries to understand what is out there, to one that tries to understand how what is out there works (i.e., process understanding). The USGS should place more emphasis on multi-scale, multidisciplinary, integrative projects that address priorities of national scale. The USGS should emphasize system modeling as a powerful tool for integrative science. The USGS should develop a research agenda that is balanced appropriately between problem-specific research and core research. NAWQA is exemplary of the evolution to assess understanding and cause-and-effect studies. NAWQA’s integrated hierarchy of different levels of study, such as watersheds nested within watersheds, to aid understanding and extrapolation among scales is an example that might be studied for other purposes within the USGS. As noted previously, the committee has also endorsed the use of system modeling as an important tool for NAWQA and has recommended some redirection of model development effort. New computational resources can certainly increase model capabilities, but the committee feels that new efforts should focus on parsimonious models with more realistic data requirements that can be widely used and provide more useful information. Also as discussed previously, NAWQA is a continual struggle for balance among its three goals that can be viewed as the balance of problem-specific and core research (i.e., understanding versus status and trends). The USGS should develop a more effective process to assess and prioritize customer needs. As a major federal science agency, the USGS cannot afford to be without external advisory committees. The USGS should establish and make extensive use of external advisory committees. To achieve its mission goals, the USGS will have to strengthen coordination and collaboration with other federal agencies as well as with states, academia, and industry.

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program As discussed extensively in Chapters 6 and 7 in particular, NAWQA has made good use of external advisory groups and has done an excellent job of establishing collaborative relationships. In this regard, NAWQA may again provide some examples for the USGS to consider. However, this process is a never-ending task. Both NAWQA’s use of and its approach to local (study unit) and national advisory committee’s have to be strengthened and made more consistent. There has been a wide range in the quality and extent of interaction of local advisory groups, in particular. The committee also recommends that NAWQA strengthen its coordination and collaboration efforts in Cycle II, particularly to address unmet resource needs, and detailed cause-and-effect studies (including groundwater-surface water interface studies and ecosystem studies) and to develop the expertise that it does not currently have for various detailed studies. NAWQA’s federal, state, local, and academic partners have much more to offer. The committee specifically recommends that the USGS and NAWQA provide leadership and bring other collaborators to address sediment in surface waters as a national synthesis topic and priority. Long-term databases are one of the USGS’s most important contributions to the nation, and care must be taken not to disrupt them. As the agencies responsibilities continue to increase, its budget should be increased to a level commensurate with the tasks. Future demands placed on the USGS can be expected to exceed the capacity of its financial and human resources. The water quality trend and cause-and-effect analyses that are the primary emphasis of Cycle II of NAWQA are inherently long-term databases, requiring long-term support. There is simply no other way to answer such questions as, Is the quality of water across the nation getting better or worse? This committee, and nearly all users of NAWQA with which it has interacted, recommend that NAWQA do more, not less—yet NAWQA has already exceeded its resources; NAWQA’s resources have not grown to keep pace with annual inflation, and it has had to significantly redesign for Cycle II. While NAWQA has done an exemplary job of downsizing to 42 planned study units for Cycle II, it cannot continue to downsize and still be considered a national water quality assessment. Although it could certainly be redesigned, this would likely undo the basis for assessment of trends and waste a decade or more of effort. To address long-term trends in water quality across the nation, one must recognize the importance of these issues and the concurrent need for long-term support to allow for consistency in the data gathering and analyses efforts. The committee has noted (Chapter 5) particular concern about whether sufficient staff, expertise, and resources are available to address understanding, cause-and-effect studies. As discussed throughout this chapter, and indeed the entire report, the future success of NAWQA is itself a struggle for balance of resources and scientific endeavors in a water policy envi-

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Opportunities to Improve the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program ronment. Current and future demands already exceed the capacity of NAWQA, but it is the hope of the committee that policy makers, politicians, and program managers can strike the necessary balance that will allow NAWQA to continue to provide important water quality data and information for the nation.