Water Quality Assessments and Monitoring Team
Water quality issues include the occurrence and distribution, trends, and modeling of certain pollutants, relationships between natural factors, land use and water quality, and the relationship between ecological responses and water quality.
Water-quality monitoring is used to help water-resource managers understand and avert potential negative effects of anthropogenic (human-caused) and natural stresses on water resources.
The Surface-Water Quality Monitoring Team collects, stores, interprets, and disseminates water-quality data at the state and local levels. They investigate both surface-water and ground-water quality.
Surface-water-quality data are collected and loaded into the National Water Information System (NWIS). The NWIS database contains current and historical water data from more than 1.5 million sites across the nation. Data collection and analysis methods are described on the Methods page.
What is water quality?
Water quality can be thought of as a measure of the suitability of water for a particular use based on selected physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.
To determine water quality, scientists first measure and analyze characteristics of the water such as temperature, dissolved mineral content, and number of bacteria. Selected characteristics are then compared to numeric standards and guidelines to decide if the water is suitable for a particular use.
Read the USGS Fact Sheet "A Primer on Water Quality."
Why study water quality?
Water quality is critical to the health and habitat of both humans and animals. Studying water quality helps us to understand:
- how water compares to quality standards
- how conditions may vary locally, regionally, and nationally
- whether conditions are getting better or worse over time
- how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.
Specific areas of expertise in water quality
The multi-disciplinary surface-water quality team focuses on water-quality issues using new technologies and techniques to study the physical, chemical, biological, geological interactions in rivers and streams in Wisconsin. The use of current, innovative techniques and the latest technology enables the Water-Quality Monitoring Team to work with cooperators to address emerging water-quality issues. Water quality issues may include occurrence and distribution, trends, and modeling of certain pollutants, relationships between natural factors, land use and water quality, and the relationship between ecological responses and water quality.
Understanding the various components of the hydrologic system and their relationship to water quality will aid Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments in the management and protection of their water-quality resources.