Regional Stream Quality Assessments

Study regions MSQA Region SESQA Region PNSQA Region

How is stream ecology affected by chemical and physical stressors in small streams? The USGS is addressing this question through studies of relations between stressors and stream ecology across large regions of the United States. Click on a region on the map to the left to learn more and access data on water and sediment quality of streams.


Assess stream ecology and habitat; concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and suspended sediment in water and streambed sediment; toxicity of water and streambed sediment; surrounding land use.

Assess relations between chemical and physical stressors and stream ecology.

Identify and evaluate the natural and anthropogenic factors in the watershed that affect stressors and stream ecology.

Develop models and management tools to predict concentrations of contaminants, nutrients, and suspended sediment, and stream ecology in the region.

Study Design

The Regional Stream Quality Assessment (RSQA) program focuses on a different region of the U.S. each year—the Midwest (2013), the Southeast (2014), the Pacific Northwest (2015), and the Northeast (2016). Future regions for study are to be determined.

Each study comprises about 100 sites on small (wadeable) streams. Samples for analysis of chemical constituents are collected weekly during a 10-week spring/summer index period. The water-quality index period culminates with an ecological survey of habitat, algae, benthic invertebrates, and fish at all sites, and collection of streambed sediment for chemical analysis and toxicity testing.

Data are used to assess water quality and ecological conditions and support statistical modeling of factors that affect those conditions.

Journal Articles

Complex mixtures of dissolved pesticides show potential aquatic toxicity in a synoptic study of Midwestern U.S. streams
2017, Science of the Total Environment

Influence of sediment chemistry and sediment toxicity on macroinvertebrate communities across 99 wadable streams of the Midwestern USA
2017, Science of the Total Environment

Similarities and differences in occurrence and temporal fluctuations in glyphosate and atrazine in small Midwestern streams (USA) during the 2013 growing season
2017, Science of the Total Environment

Complex mixtures of pesticides in Midwest U.S. streams indicated by POCIS time-integrating samplers
2017, Environmental Pollution

Sources and ages of fine-grained sediment to streams using fallout radionuclides in the Midwestern United States
2016, Journal of Environmental Management

Bifenthrin causes trophic cascade and altered insect emergence in mesocosms: Implications for small streams
2016, Environmental Science & Technology

Spatial and temporal variation in microcystin occurrence in wadeable streams in the southeastern United States
2016, Environmental Toxicology

High Nitrate Concentrations in Some Midwest United States Streams in 2013 after the 2012 Drought
2016, Journal of Environmental Quality

Metaformin and other pharmaceuticals widespread in wadeable streams of the Southeastern United States
2016, Environmental Science & Technology Letters

USGS Publications

Factsheets describing the elements of the study:

Southeast Stream Quality Assessment

Midwest Stream Quality Assessment

Pacific Northwest Stream Quality Assessment

Northeast Stream Quality Assessment

California Stream Quality Assessment

Other publications:

Design and methods of the Southeast Stream Quality Assessment (SESQA), 2014

ScienceBase Data Releases:

Regional Stream Quality Assessment

Bifenthrin causes trophic cascade and altered insect emergences in mesocosms: implications for small streams

Concentrations of glyphosate and atrazine compounds in 100 Midwest United States streams in 2013

Geospatial database of the study boundary, sampled sites, watersheds, and riparian zones developed for the U.S. Geological Survey Midwest Stream Quality Assessment

Periphyton (1993-2011) and Water Quality (2014) Data for ET&C Article Entitled Spatial and Temporal Variation in Microcystins Occurrence in Wadeable Streams in the Southeastern USA

Pesticides in polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) for 97 Midwest U.S. streams, 2013

Pharmaceutical contaminant concentration and watershed geospatial land-use/land-cover data for small wadeable streams in the Piedmont ecoregion of the USA assessed during the Southeastern Region Stream Quality Assessment during April through June 2014

Radionuclide and Pesticide data for sediment age and source analysis in the Midwest Stream-Quality Assessment Region (2013-2014)

Selected Environmental Characteristics of Sampled Sites, Watersheds, and Riparian Zones for the U.S. Geological Survey Midwest Stream Quality Assessment


Pete Van Metre, RSQA Project Chief
(512) 927-3566

Jeff Frey, MSQA Project Manager
(317) 290-3313

Celeste Journey, SESQA Project Manager
(803) 750-6141

Jennifer Morace, PNSQA Project Manager
(503) 251-3229

Rich Sheibley, PNSQA Project Manager
(253) 552-1611

Karen Murray, NESQA Project Manager
(518) 285-5617

Jim Coles, NESQA Project Manager
(603) 226-7845