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New and Noteworthy

Highlights and Accomplishments

Since 1999, nearly $25 million has been allocated for USGS partnership water quality projects in parks. Through 2012, 173 partnership projects have been initiated in 115 national park units. Twelve new projects were funded in FY 2012 for initiation in FY 2013 for a total of $867,430 ($2,144,550 when complete). Additional information on the program is available on the partnership web site at

Recent technical assistance provided to parks for ground and surface water quality issues includes: 1) support of a Mountain Pass Mine groundwater plume's delineation upon its approach to Mojave National Park, 2) assessment of soil and groundwater impacts from a 3rd party's diesel release adjacent to Chesapeake and Ohio NHP 3) evaluate threats on both a national and local scale to surface water and groundwater from unconventional oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, that has begun to spread toward natural areas such as Theodore Roosevelt NP and parks of the northeastern U.S., and 4) monitoring of Soda Butte Creek at the boundary to Yellowstone NP during MT DEQ's in-stream removal of mine tailings and their placement into a new repository.

Status and Future

The emphasis for the Vital Signs water quality program will be to implement the network plans and ensure that all aquatic monitoring protocols and standard operating procedures are complete and approved through final peer review. The water quality team will assist networks with these few remaining reviews and provide guidance on basic monitoring designs, instrumentation and the technical details of monitoring. In addition, networks will need assistance in recruiting and training skilled staff, acquiring appropriate instrumentation and analysis software, and that their aquatic monitoring work is conducted in a safe manner under an approved Job Safety Analysis or equivalent.

The NPS is exploring ways to expand the partnership concept with both USGS and EPA to address other water resource needs in parks. As a follow-up to the Western Air Contaminants Assessment Program, NPS has begun water column sampling for Contaminants of Emerging Concern (Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products and Waste Water Indicators) in several southwestern parks with EPA analytical support. In addition, the USGS will begin limited sediment sampling for these emerging contaminants in selected parks. It is anticipated these initial sampling programs will be expanded further if this data shows that even pristine areas are affected by these chemicals that may have endocrine disruptive potential for aquatic life at very low ppb levels.

Last Updated: January 03, 2017