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Yampa River in 2010, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado and Utah

NPS—USGS Water Quality Assessment and Monitoring Partnership Program

In 1998, the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initiated a water quality partnership program with support from the Clean Water Action Plan. The partnership program is a mutual collaboration between both agencies. The goal of the program is to develop information on park water quality to enable the National Park Service to address its most critical water quality management responsibilities.

As directed by the initiative, USGS District Offices and individual parks collaborate closely to refine project statements from NPS Resource Management Plans. Submitted project proposals are ranked by an interagency work group and selected for funding. The projects selected address the highest priority NPS water quality issues identified by park managers. They include investigations of nutrient transport in groundwater; nutrient, sediment and metal transport and loading in streams; atmospheric deposition in streams and lakes; microbiological contamination in recreational waters; organic contamination in stream and lake sediments; and aquatic biological health. In addition, fixed-station monitoring and technical assistance projects are implemented to address park needs related to providing baseline water quality data and advice on specific water issues.

Perhaps the most beneficial result of the partnership is the interaction of park staff with USGS scientists. Through the activities of the partnership, new relationships are established which provide opportunities for future collaborations. Also, the partnership is producing tangible products for park managers including data for resource decision-making, information for interpretation purposes, monitoring plans for park staff, and professional reports with detailed results.

In 2011 eight projects were selected for funding beginning in 2012. To date, 163 partnership projects have been initiated in 110 parks. The NPS and USGS are exploring ways to expand the partnership concept to address other water resource needs in parks. These discussions culminated in the establishment of a liaison position in 2007 to facilitate increased communication and exchange of technical information between the agencies, and help develop new opportunities for water resources collaborative project work in parks.

The NPS—USGS partnership is administered out of the USGS Headquarters in Reston, Virginia, and the NPS Water Resources Division in Fort Collins, Colorado. For further information on the NPS/USGS Partnership Program.

Last Updated: May 16, 2012