US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in USGS Circular 1216, 1-44, (2000)


This report summarizes major findings about water quality in the Sacramento River Basin that emerged from an assessment conducted between 1994 and 1998 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Water quality is discussed in terms of local and regional issues and compared to conditions found in all 36 NAWQA study areas, called Study Units, assessed to date. Findings are also explained in the context of selected national benchmarks, such as those for drinking-water quality and the protection of aquatic organisms. The NAWQA Program was not intended to assess the quality of the Nation's drinking water, such as by monitoring water from household taps. Rather, the assessments focus on the quality of the resource itself, thereby complementing many ongoing Federal, State, and local drinking-water monitoring programs. The comparisons made in this report to drinking-water standards and guidelines are only in the context of the available untreated resource. Finally, this report includes information about the status of aquatic communities and the condition of instream habitats as elements of a complete water-quality assessment. Many topics covered in this report reflect the concerns of officials of State and Federal agencies, water-resource managers, and members of stakeholder groups who provided advice and input during the Sacramento River Basin assessment. Basin residents who wish to know more about water quality in the areas where they live will find this report informative as well.