significant public interest. By choosing not to pursue the larger scale status and trends assessment of mercury proposed in Objective 1b, the associated public visibility would not be realized.
Although the Implementation Plan for Cycle 3 was not yet prepared at the time of this review, the Science Plan contained preliminary discussion of how to implement the scientific agenda. The Science Plan proposes increased coverage of the NAWQA sampling network to an extent that is similar to that of the original design, coupled with intensive yearly sampling schedules (as opposed to intensive sampling every 2 to 4 years). Although the sense of the committee is that increasing the sampling network is important, some analysis of what would be gained by different numbers and combinations of sites is important. NAWQA should determine the number of sampling locations and frequency using a similar process that was used in Cycle 2, adapted to the objectives for Cycle 3, with particular consideration of the certainty required for Cycle 3 modeling efforts.
Communication and Program Impact
NAWQA has used a wide array of approaches to communicate findings, from press releases to congressional briefings, peer-reviewed publications, and the program website. These efforts are an accomplishment, yet communication challenges and opportunities do exist. For example, using tools to bring water-quality data to the public, such as the data warehouse, is an accomplishment of the NAWQA program. Yet the data warehouse, in the committee’s judgment, is not user friendly. Furthermore, ensuring that data interpretation, synthesis, and publication of NAWQA data take place in a timely manner is critical. The committee acknowledges the difficulty of this task given the sheer size of the datasets that NAWQA scientists publish, the intense yet valuable USGS peer-review process, and resource constraints. Timely interpretation, synthesis, and release of NAWQA results is critical. NAWQA data used in these results should continue to be delivered to the public via an improved public database.
NAWQA informally measures success and feedback through monitoring the number of website hits, the number of requests for products at the time of release, attendance at briefings during product launches, and collecting information on media coverage. The website homepage contains a link to a document titled The National Water-Quality Assessment Program— Science to Policy and Management, which catalogues how stakeholders use NAWQA information and contains personal testimony from a variety of users about the program. NAWQA has conducted three surveys probing