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NAWQA Regional Stream Quality Assessment

Project Number: CRM100
RSQA National Team Coordinator: Pete Van Metre
RSQA Team: Paul Bradley
Program: National Water Quality Assessment Program
Project Timeline: 2012-present
Cooperator(s): See projects below
Additional Links: Regional Stream Quality Assessments, Midwest Region, Southeast Region, Pacific Northwest

South Carolina Department of Transportation
National Water Quality Assessment Program and Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

PROBLEM STATEMENT

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) is assessing stream quality in select ecoregions across the United States. The goals of the Regional Stream Quality Assessment (RSQA) are to (1) characterize multiple water-quality factors—contaminants, nutrients, sediment, and streamflow alterations that are stressors to aquatic life— and ecological conditions in streams throughout the region and (2) to determine the effects of these stressors on aquatic organisms in the streams. Findings will provide communities and policymakers with useful information on which human and environmental factors are the most critical in controlling stream quality.

General RSQA study approach assessing relations between watershed (land use) stressors, in stream water-quality stressors, and in-stream aquatic health indices (ecological endpoints). Cattle in MSQA study stream and urban-impacted stream in the SESQA.

 

OBJECTIVES

For 100-150 perennial (year-round) streams in each study region, RSQA projects:

  1. Assess the status of ecological conditions; the geographic distribution of spring-summer seasonal concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and sediment; and the toxicity of water and sediment.
  2. Assess relations among concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and sediment; toxicity of water and sediment; and ecological conditions in the sampled streams.
  3. Identify and evaluate statistically the natural and anthropogenic factors in the watersheds affecting concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and sediment, and ecological conditions in sampled streams.
  4. Develop models to predict concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and sediment, and, if possible, ecological conditions in the region on the basis of findings from objectives 2 and 3.

APPROACH

Fourmile Creek photos.

Maps showing a) MSQA and b) SESQA study regions.

Ecological Condition—Algae, benthic invertebrates, and fish com­munities are sampled, along with physical habitat.

  • Water Sampling—Depth/Width-integrating methods are used to sample surface water weekly at each site for up to 10 weeks preceding ecological sampling, to assess temporal variations in-stream water-quality stressors.
  • Integrated Samplers—Passive POCIS sam­plers are deployed to provide temporally-integrated assessment of water-quality stressors.
  • Sediment Sampling—Streambed sediment is sampled coincident with the ecological sampling, to assess sediment-quality stressors.
  • Toxicity Testing—Whole-sediment toxicity tests are conducted with amphipod crustaceans (Hyalella azteca 28-day exposures), midge larvae (Chironomus dilutus 10-day exposures) and freshwater mussels (Lampsilis siliquoidea 28-day exposures), to measure potential effects of contaminants on survival and growth.
  • Continuous Monitoring—Continuous water-quality monitoring is employed at select sites across the region.
  • Daily Pesticide Sampling—Small-volume automated pesticide samplers are deployed in select streams to assess temporal variations in pesticides and pesticide degradation products.

 

RSQA National Team

  • Coordinator:
  • Pete Van Metre (TX WSC)
  • Hydrologists / Chemists:
  • Paul Bradley (SC WSC)
  • Barbara Mahler (TX WSC)
  • Lisa Nowell (CA WSC)
  • Ecological modelers:
  • Travis Schmidt (CO WSC)
  • Ian Waite (OR WSC)
  • Nutrient Ecologist:
  • Mark Munn (WA WSC)
  • Ecotoxicologist:
  • Patrick Moran (WA WSC)
  • Ecology and streamflow:
  • Chris Konrad (WA WSC)
  • Fluvial geomorphology:
  • Allen Gellis (MD WSC)
  • Data management/
    Database development:
  • Tom Burley (TX WSC)
  • Dan Button (OH WSC)
  • Sharon Q (CO WSC)
  • GIS Specialist:
  • Naomi Nakagaki (CA WSC)

Projects

MIDWEST STREAM QUALITY ASSESSMENT (MSQA):
MSQA Regional Lead: Jeffrey W. Frey
Period of Project: 2012-present
Cooperator(s): U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Additional Links: Midwest Region

 

SOUTHEAST STREAM QUALITY ASSESSMENT (SESQA):
SESQA Regional Lead: Celeste A. Journey
Period of Project: 2013-present
Cooperator(s): EPA Office of Pesticides Program, and University of Portland.
Additional Links: Southeast Region

 

References

Van Metre, P.C., Frey, J.W., and Tarquinio, Ellen, 2012, The Midwest Stream Quality Assessment: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012–3124, 2 p., available online at https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2012/3124/

Van Metre, P.C., and Journey, C.A., 2014, The Southeast Stream Quality Assessment: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2014–3023, 2p., .https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3023/pdf/fs2014-3023.pdf

 

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