For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/.
Water Quality Program
The Water Quality Program is located in the Aquatic Systems Branch of the Water Resources Division. Water quality activities are broadly categorized into three program areas: (1) national program coordination and management; (2) project proposal development, funding, and management; and (3) technical assistance to parks. Currently, the primary focus of the program has been on managing the Vital Signs Water Quality Monitoring program. Considerable support is also provided for managing the NPS-USGS Water Quality Partnership program and participating on interagency groups like the National Water Quality Monitoring Council. Technical assistance to parks on water quality and contaminants issues remains a high priority.
The Vital Signs Monitoring program, supported by the Natural Resources Challenge, is designed to track and support the attainment of the NPS and Department of the Interior strategic goals to protect pristine water quality and improve impaired water quality by supporting the Clean Water Act protections and provisions for designated unimpaired and impaired waters. NPS offices are integrating the water quality monitoring component of the program with the monitoring of other vital signs in parks. Therefore, water quality monitoring may emphasize the support of protected uses through water quality standards as developed by the states, or emphasize the characterization and determination of trends in water quality conditions due to influences like climate change and urbanization. As of 2004 about 110 parks had at least one waterbody that did not meet one or more water quality standards.
The NPS—USGS Water Quality Partnership program is a mutual collaboration between both agencies that began in 1998. The goal of the partnership program is to develop information on park water quality to enable NPS to address its most critical water quality management responsibilities. Both agencies view the water quality partnership as a positive example of the progress that can be achieved by working together to solve resource management problems.
Recent technical assistance provided to parks for ground and surface water quality issues includes (1) instrument recommendations for hydrologic monitoring at Sylvan Pass to assess impacts of gravel extraction in Yellowstone NP; (2) interpretation of samples collected from oil contaminated soils and water at Padres Island NS and Big Thicket NP: (3) assessment of contaminant inputs and impacts of water withdrawals at Kaloko-Honokahau NHP; and (4) analysis and interpretation of mercury concentrations in fish tissue at Lake Mead NRA.
Last Updated: May 15, 2012