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Urban Land-Use Study Plan for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Paul J. Squillace and C.V. Price

U.S. Geological Survey, 1608 Mt. View Road, Rapid City, South Dakota 57702
Phone (605) 355-4560 ext. 239, Telecopier (605) 355-4523,

The National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program was implemented by the United States Geological Survey in 1991 as a systematic assessment of the quality of the Nation's water resources. The program will describe the status and trends in the quality of a large, representative part of the Nation's surfacewater and groundwater resources and will define the primary natural and human factors affecting the quality of these resources. In meeting these goals, the NAWQA Program will produce information useful for policymakers, managers, and the general public at the National, State, and local levels. The building blocks of the NAWQA Program are 60 Study-Unit Investigations that include parts of most of the Nation's major river basins and aquifers.

Urban Land-Use Studies are an important part of NAWQA's groundwater study design. There are two Urban Land-Use Study objectives: (1) Define the water quality in recharge areas of shallow aquifers underlying areas of new residential and commercial land use in large metropolitan areas and (2) Determine which natural and human factors most strongly affect the occurrence of contaminants in these shallow aquifers. To meet objective 1, each NAWQA Study Unit will install and collect water samples from at least 30 randomly located monitoring wells in a metropolitan area. To meet objective 2, aquifer characteristics and land-use information will be documented. This includes particle-size analysis of each major lithologic unit both in the unsaturated zone and in the aquifer near the water table. The percentage of organic carbon also will be determined for each lithologic unit. Geographic information system coverages will be created that document existing land use around the wells. These data will aid NAWQA personnel in relating natural and human factors to the occurrence of contaminants. Water samples for age dating also will be collected from all monitoring wells, but the samples will be stored until the occurrence of contaminants has been determined. Age-date analysis will be done only on those samples that have no detectable concentrations of anthropogenic contaminants.


1996, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, OFR 96-217.


Pesticides and volatile organic compounds in shallow urban groundwater of the United States, in Chilton, John and others, eds., Goundwater in the Urban Environment, v. 1, Problems, Processes, and Management: A.A. Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam, Netherlands, p. 665-670.

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