Preparing for the Third Decade
of the National Water-Quality
Assessment Program

Committee on Preparing for the Third Decade (Cycle 3) of the
National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program

Water Science and Technology Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES




THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
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Committee on Preparing for the Third Decade (Cycle 3) of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program Water Science and Technology Board Division on Earth and Life Studies

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Govern- ing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineer- ing, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Grant Number 07HQAG0124 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Cover: Design by Anne Rogers. Map shows total nitrogen yields in kilograms per square kilometer per year determined by the SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed Attributes (SPARROW) model. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-26185-2 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-26185-6 Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Acad- emy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding en- gineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineer- ing programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is presi- dent of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Insti- tute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sci- ences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.nationalacademies.org

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COMMITTEE ON PREPARING FOR THE THIRD DECADE (CYCLE 3) OF THE NATIONAL WATER- QUALITY ASSESSMENT (NAWQA) PROGRAM Donald I. Siegel, Chair, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York Michael E. Campana, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon Jennifer A. Field, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon George R. Hallberg, The Cadmus Group, Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts Nancy K. Kim, State of New York Department of Health, Valatie, New York Debra S. Knopman, RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia Upmanu Lall, Columbia University, New York, New York Walter R. Lynn, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (through June 2011) Judith L. Meyer, University of Georgia, Emeritus, Lopez Island, Washington David W. Schindler, University of Alberta, Edmondton, Canada Deborah L. Swackhamer, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota NRC Staff Laura J. Helsabeck, Senior Staff Officer Anita Hall, Senior Program Associate Jessica Lawson, Intern, Johns Hopkins University v

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WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD Donald I. Siegel, Chair, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York Edward J. Bouwer, Johns Hopkins University Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, University of California, Berkeley Yu-Ping Chin, The Ohio State University, Columbus Otto C. Doering III, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana M. Siobhan Fennessy, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio Ben Grumbles, Clean Water America Alliance, Washington, D.C. George R. Hallberg, The Cadmus Group, Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts Kenneth R. Herd, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Brooksville George M. Hornberger, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee Kimberly L. Jones, Howard University, Washington, D.C. Larry Larson, Association of State Floodplain Managers, Madison, Wisconsin David H. Moreau, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Dennis D. Murphy, University of Nevada, Reno Marylynn V. Yates, University of California, Riverside NRC Staff Stephen Parker, Director (through February 2012) Jeffrey Jacobs, Director Laura J. Ehlers, Senior Staff Officer Laura J. Helsabeck, Senior Staff Officer Stephanie Johnson, Senior Staff Officer Jeanne Aquilino, Financial and Administrative Associate Anita Hall, Senior Program Associate Michael Stoever, Research Associate Sarah Brennan, Senior Program Assistant vi

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Dedication Walter R. Lynn (1928-2011) This report is dedicated to Dr. Walter R. Lynn, who served on the committee that authored this re- port until June 6, 2011, when he passed away. Dr. Lynn was a member of the faculty of Cornell University for 49 years, serving in various positions, including professor, program director, dean, and university ombudsman. He also served as Mayor of the Village of Cayuga Heights from 2002 to 2008. As a pioneer in the field of environmental systems engineering, he saw the big picture of how water resources and sanitation relate to science, technol- ogy, and society. Dedication Dr. Lynn was a true interdisciplinarian, and in many ways ahead of his time. For example, he used the term "sustainability" decades ago and interacted frequently with professionals in the medical community on epidemiological matters. Dr. Lynn was a well-traveled adviser to many organizations. As such, he was a beloved participant in the National Research Council's (NRC's) network of expert volunteers. His service began in 1977 as a member of an august committee charged with assessing future water supply options for the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, and ended with service on the commit- tee that authored the following report. In between, he served on 15 other committees, including several that advised the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Water Quality Assessment program. A National Associate of the National Academies, Dr. Lynn was a favorite of the NRC staff, with a well- deserved reputation as thorough, reasonable, and a pleasure to work with. vii

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Perhaps his most well-known NRC contribution was as founding chair of the Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) in 1982. In this capacity (1982-1985), he worked tirelessly and thoughtfully with staff in designing important studies and creating from scratch most of WSTB's operating traditions that have endured to the present. Upon Dr. Lynn's passing, Cornell President David Skorton said of him, "Those who met Walter during his 49 years at Cornell will remember a man of great humor with the exceptional ability to listen and dispense sound wisdom." That is exactly how he will be remembered at the NRC and the WSTB: no pushover, Walter had exceptional skills of modestly imparting sage and thoughtful advice in a style that would cause its recipients to consider and act upon it. The quintessential gentleman-scholar, Dr. Lynn's spirit and memory will continue as a role model for many in the WSTB community, especially the staff who admired and loved working with him. viii

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Preface After the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, state and federal regulatory agencies recognized the inadequacy of the nation's water-quality measurements necessary to assess and address widely recognized water contamination at a national scale. Existing data lacked consistency in their means of collection, methods of analysis, and constituents that were mea- sured. By the middle of the 1980s, Congress, federal and state agencies, and industry collectively understood that the nation needed a comprehensive approach to track and assess water q uality and to determine if the quality of water across the nation improved or continued to degrade. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) developed the National Water- Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program to address this need, first with a pilot program in 1986, and then with a widely respected, now mature, national monitoring program. The primary objectives of NAWQA are to assess the status of the nation's groundwater and surface-water resources; evaluate trends in water quality over time; and understand how and to what degree natural and anthropogenic activities affect water quality. Through this three-pronged approach, the NAWQA program provides a national synthesis of the interaction between the natural factors, human activities, and water-quality conditions that affect national water resources. The first decade (Cycle 1, 1991-2001) of the NAWQA program fo- cused on baseline assessment of the status of water quality in 51 study units that representatively covered approximately two-thirds of the nation's waters. Baseline water quality, in this context, refers to concentrations of measured parameters obtained at the initial samplings. These data would later be compared to future measured values that could document changes ix

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x PREFACE in water chemistry caused by long-term effects of regulatory controls over contamination, changing climate, and changing landscape uses. NAWQA in its second decade (Cycle 2, 2001 to the present) built on Cycle 1 through continued monitoring of the study units, but programmatically shifted focus to develop an assessment of observed water quality trends, through, for example, national syntheses on selected water quality parameters and regional assessments of water quality that crossed watershed and political boundaries. Now, USGS scientists are planning for the NAWQA program's third decade of water-quality assessment (Cycle 3, 2013-2023). They approached the National Research Council's (NRC's) Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) for perspective on past accomplishments and advice on the current and future design and scope of the program. The committee's task was to assess NAWQA's general accomplishments in Cycle 2 through dis- cussions with program stakeholders and by review of NAWQA's informa- tion and products. More importantly, the committee was asked to provide advice on how NAWQA should approach current and future water-quality issues confronting the nation over the next 10 years. Specifically, the com- mittee addressed: (1) present and future water quality issues that should be considered for addition to NAWQA's scope, (2) which NAWQA com- ponents should be retained or enhanced, (3) opportunities for NAWQA to better collaborate with others to meet program objectives, (4) the tech- nical soundness of strategic science and design plans for Cycle 3, and (5) NAWQA's ability to meet Cycle 3 objectives. This request is timely, given the uncertain fiscal climate for the USGS and other governmental agencies. When this NRC committee was being convened, and indeed, during the first 2 years of the review, NAWQA was formulating two strategic documents to guide the program through Cycle 3, the Science Framework and the Science Plan. Captured in these documents are NAWQA's goals for the next decade, namely to move beyond its early focus on nationwide monitoring (Cycle 1) and characterization of water- quality trends (Cycle 2) toward an emphasis on understanding (Cycle 3), the "why and how" of water-quality status and trends. The goal of Cycle 3 is consistent with the original intent of the NAWQA program. To this end, the committee provided two letter reports to help guide NAWQA in shap- ing its future program. The committee members brought a wide range of water resources expertise and experience, interacting with NAWQA to make the recom- mendations herein. Some committee members have provided reviews of NAWQA since its inception through service on earlier NRC committees; other members were users and consumers of NAWQA data and reports. The committee held six deliberative meetings; at the majority of these meet- ings the committee heard presentations from, and engaged "in discussions

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PREFACE xi with program scientists and others such as users of NAWQA products," as required in the statement of task. Committee members spoke with NAWQA staff; other USGS (non-NAWQA) personnel; local, state, and federal agency "users" of NAWQA data and information; and other users. Committee members attended National Liaison Committee1 meetings to further under stand the needs and role of program stakeholders. The committee also col- lectively reviewed scores of NAWQA-related reports, both as users and to support this NRC review. The committee extends thanks to the numerous people external to the USGS who provided highly informative and useful presentations regarding their collective experiences with NAWQA. The committee thanks the USGS NAWQA staff as a whole, particularly Gary L. Rowe and the NAWQA Cycle 3 Planning Team, for answering the many inquiries and requests for reports and documents (Appendix D). The committee also thanks the NRC WSTB staff for their support and leadership. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with pro- cedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the delibera- tive process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Kenneth R. Bradbury, University of Wisconsin-Madison; David A. Dzombak, Carnegie Mellon University; Jerome B. Gilbert, Consultant, J. Gilbert, Inc.; Ben Grumbles, Clean Water America Alliance; John Melack, University of California, Santa Barbara; Timothy L. Miller, USGS; Karl Rockne, University of Illinois-Chicago; Thomas Theis, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center; and Marylynn Yates, University of California, Riverside. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Henry J. Vaux Jr., Uni- versity of California. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for mak- ing certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. This report is intended to assist NAWQA as it enters its third decade 1 See http://acwi.gov/nawqa/, and Chapter 5 and Appendix C of this report.

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xii PREFACE of nationwide water-quality monitoring and assessment. The committee recognizes that NAWQA is continually striving to improve its efficiency, visibility, and, above all, utility; the committee strongly supports and en- courages NAWQA's approach to continuous improvement. It is important that scientists, policy makers, and legislative leaders recognize that identify- ing and truly understanding water quality status and trends is a long-term undertaking, requiring sustained, long-term support. Finally, we wish to dedicate this review to committee member Dr. Walter Lynn, who sadly died of cancer during deliberations. Dr. Lynn was a founding member of the WSTB, and he served Cornell University and the water science committee for 49 years in many capacities. He provided the committee with keen insight on the history of the USGS and NAWQA programs, as well as our role in the reviewing process. Cornell President David Skorton called Walter Lynn "one of the most beloved members of the Cornell family," and I can say that all committee members felt the same way about him as a friend and NRC colleague. Walter Lynn will be missed on many levels. Donald I. Siegel Chair, Committee to Review the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program

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Contents SUMMARY1 1INTRODUCTION 17 2 NAWQA: CYCLE 1 AND CYCLE 2 25 Cycle 1 Overview, 28 Cycle 2, 31 Current Status, 48 3ASSESSING ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE NAWQA PROGRAM53 National Assessment of Chemicals in the Nation's Surface Waters, 53 A National Assessment of Chemicals in U.S. Groundwater, 57 Incorporation of Ecological Assessment into NAWQA, 59 National Synthesis Assessments and Reports, 61 Continuity and Consistency in Study Methods and Design, 62 Development and Use of Robust Extrapolation and Inference-based Techniques, 63 Information Dissemination, 65 NAWQA Science Informing Policy and Management Decisions, 68 Cooperation, Coordination, and Collaboration, 70 Linkages and Integration Across Media, Disciplines, and Multiple Scales, 71 Conclusion, 72 xiii

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xivCONTENTS 4THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE THIRD DECADE OF NATIONAL WATER-QUALITY ASSESSMENT 73 The First Priority: Basic Sampling, 75 The Role and Need for Modeling, 76 Assessment of the Cycle 3 Science Plan, 77 The Science Plan Goals and Objectives: An Evaluation of Trade-Offs, 80 Cycle 3 Design Elements, 96 Communication and Program Impact, 103 Consequences of Prioritization of Objectives, 108 5 COORDINATION, COOPERATION, AND COLLABORATION 109 NAWQA's Value in a Reorganized USGS: Cooperation, Coordination, and Collaboration with USGS Mission Areas and Programs, 111 Coordination and Cooperation Efforts: NAWQA Liaison Committees, 115 Coordination and Cooperation with External Partners, 117 The Challenge and Importance of Local Relationships, 123 Collaboration Is Essential in Cycle 3, 124 REFERENCES127 APPENDIXES A Letter Report Assessing the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program's Science Framework137 B Letter Report Assessing the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program's Science Plan153 C Communicating Data and Information to Users 171 D Contributors to the Report, Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program179 E Biographical Information: Committee on Preparing for the Third Decade (Cycle 3) of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program 181