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Oahu NAWQA home page. Oahu NAWQA home



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The Oahu National Water-Quality Assessment

Map of National NAWQA study areas.In 1991 the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initiated the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to assess the status and trends in the quality of freshwater streams and aquifers, and to provide a sound understanding of the natural and human factors that affect the quality of these resources. As part of the program, investigations were conducted in 51 areas-- called "study units" -- throughout the Nation to provide a framework for national and regional water-quality assessment. Together, these areas account for 60 to 70 percent of the Nation's water use and population served by public water supplies, and cover about one-half of the land area of the Nation.

As part of the NAWQA Program, the USGS has been evaluating water-quality conditions on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Water resources are of significant economic and ecological importance to the island. Groundwater provides essentially all municipal and domestic water for a large and expanding population, while streams provide important riparian and instream habitats for many threatened and endangered species. In addition, streams affect the physical, chemical, and aesthetic quality of receiving waters, such as estuaries, bays, and nearshore waters which are critical to the tourism-based economy of the island.

Ala Wai Canal estuary Honolulu, Oahu. Photo by Douglas Peebles.

Beginning in October 1998, and continuing for a period of 3 years, the NAWQA Program intensively investigated the quality of water resources on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The largest and most important component of the intensive-study phase was an "Occurrence and Distribution Assessment". The goal of this assessment was to characterize, in a nationally consistent manner, the broad-scale geographic and seasonal variations of water quality related to major contaminant sources and background conditions.

This pictures shows Honolulu—an urban area where runoff affects high-visibility receiving waters that include several streams, the Ala Wai Canal estuary, and nearshore waters of the major tourism center, Waikiki (photo by Douglas Peebles).

What is NAWQA?

During the past 30 years, our Nation has sought to improve its water quality; however, many water-quality issues remain unresolved. To address the need for consistent and scientifically sound information for managing the Nation's water resources, the U.S. Geological Survey began a full-scale National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in 1991. This program is unique compared to other national water-quality assessment studies in that it integrates the monitoring of the quality of surface and groundwaters with the study of aquatic ecosystems.

The goals of the NAWQA Program are to:

  1. describe current water-quality conditions for a large part of the Nation’s freshwater streams and aquifers,
  2. describe how water quality is changing over time, and
  3. improve our understanding of the primary natural and human factors affecting water quality.

Assessing the quality of water in every location of the Nation would not be practical; therefore, NAWQA studies are conducted within areas called study units. These study units represent the diverse geography, water resources, and land and water uses of the Nation. The island of Oahu, Hawaii, is one such study unit designed to supplement water-quality information collected in other study units across the Nation while addressing issues relevant to the island of Oahu.

From 1991-2001, the NAWQA program completed interdisciplinary assessments in 51 of the Nation's major river basins and aquifer systems. Baseline conditions were established for comparison to future assessments, and long-term monitoring was initiated in many of the basins. During the next decade, 42 of the 51 Study Units will be reassessed so that 10 years of comparable monitoring data will be available to determine trends at many of the Nation's streams and aquifers. The Oahu study was one of several NAWQA studies that began in 1997 and was discontinued in 2003 owing to budget constraints.

For More Information

If you have questions and comments related to the Oahu NAWQA study, contact:

Stephen Anthony (santhony@usgs.gov)
or write:
Stephen Anthony
Oahu NAWQA Project Chief
U.S. Geological Survey
677 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 415
Honolulu, HI 96813

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 15-Jan-2013 19:08:12 EST