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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
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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.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
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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 Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, 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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

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 Academy 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 engineers. 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 engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president 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 Institute 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 Sciences 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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

Dedication

Walter R. Lynn (1928-2011)

image

This report is dedicated to Dr. Walter R. Lynn, who served on the committee that authored this report 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, technology, and society. 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 committee 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.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
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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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

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 measured. 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 quality 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 focused 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

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

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 discussions with program stakeholders and by review of NAWQA’s information 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 committee addressed: (1) present and future water quality issues that should be considered for addition to NAWQA’s scope, (2) which NAWQA components should be retained or enhanced, (3) opportunities for NAWQA to better collaborate with others to meet program objectives, (4) the technical 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 shaping its future program.

The committee members brought a wide range of water resources expertise and experience, interacting with NAWQA to make the recommendations 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 meetings the committee heard presentations from, and engaged “in discussions

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
×

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 understand the needs and role of program stakeholders. The committee also collectively 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 procedures 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 deliberative 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., University of California. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making 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.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. Preparing for the Third Decade of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13464.
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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 encourages NAWQA’s approach to continuous improvement. It is important that scientists, policy makers, and legislative leaders recognize that identifying 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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The first two decades of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program have provided a successful and useful assessment of U.S. water-quality conditions, how they have changed over time, and how natural features and human activities have affected those conditions. Now, planning is underway for the third decade (Cycle 3) of the Program outlined in the Science Plan, with challenges including ensuring that the NAWQA remain a national program in the face of declining resources, balancing new activities against long-term studies, and maintaining focus amidst numerous and competing stakeholder demands.

The Science Plan for Cycle 3 articulates a forward-thinking vision for NAWQA science over the next decade, building on the previous cycles' data, experience, and products. Preparing for the Third Decade (Cycle 3) of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program explains the national needs outlined in the plan, NAWQA's need to emphasize collaboration with other USGS and external programs, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector.

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