Home Archived January 13, 2017


National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program
Lower Tennessee River Basin



During the past 25 years, industry and government made large financial investments that have resulted in improved water quality across the Nation; however, many water-quality concerns remain. The U.S. Geological Survey began a full-scale National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in 1991 to provide consistent and scientifically sound information for managing the Nation's water resources. This program is unique compared to other national water-quality assessment studies in that it integrates the monitoring of the quality of surface and ground waters with the study of aquatic ecosystems. The goals of the NAWQA Program are (1) to describe current water-quality conditions for a large part of the Nation's freshwater streams and aquifers (water-bearing sediments and rocks), (2) to describe how water quality is changing over time, and (3) to improve our understanding of the primary natural and human factors affecting water quality.

national map of NAWQA study units

The goals of the NAWQA program are being achieved through ongoing or planned investigations of 59 of the Nation's most important river and aquifer systems, which are referred to as study units. These study units were selected to represent the diverse geography, water resources, and land and water uses of the Nation. The Lower Tennessee River Basin is one such study unit, encompassing the drainage area between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Paducah, Kentucky. The U.S. Geological Survey began the Lower Tennessee River Basin NAWQA study in 1996.


Communication and coordination between the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientific and land- and water-management organizations are critical components of the NAWQA Program. Each study unit maintains a liaison committee consisting of representatives from Federal, State, and local agencies, universities, the private sector, watershed organizations, and others who have water-resource responsibilities and interests. Activities include the exchange of information about regional and local water-quality issues, identification of sources of data and information, assistance in the design and scope of study products, and the review of study planning documents and reports. The liaison committee for the Lower Tennessee River Basin study met for the first time in November 1997.

The overall success of the Lower Tennessee River Basin NAWQA study will depend on the advice, cooperation, and information from many Federal, State, regional, and local agencies, and the public concerned about water resources in the basin. The assistance and suggestions of all are welcome.


Gilliom, R.J., Alley, W.M., and Gurtz, M.E., 1995, Design of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: Occurrence and distribution of water-quality conditions: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1112, 33 p.

Leahy, P.P., Rosenshein, J.S., and Knopman, D.S., 1990, Implementation plan for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 90-174, 10 p.