Contaminants in urban waters - Science capabilities of the U.S. Geological Survey

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Streams and estuaries with urban watersheds commonly exhibit increased streamflow and decreased base flow; diminished stream-channel stability; excessive amounts of contaminants such as pesticides, metals, industrial and municipal waste, and combustion products; and alterations to biotic community structure. Collectively, these detrimental effects have been termed the “urban-stream syndrome.” Water-resource managers seek to lessen the effects on receiving water bodies of new urban development and remediate the effects in areas of existing urbanization. Similarly, the scientific community has produced extensive research on these topics, with researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) leading many studies of urban streams and the processes responsible for the urban-stream syndrome. Increasingly, USGS studies are evaluating the effects of management and restoration activities to better understand how urban waters respond to the implementation of management practices. The USGS has expertise in collecting and interpreting data for many physical, chemical, and ecological processes in urban waters and, thus, provides holistic assessments to inform managers of urban water resources.

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  • Fact Sheet


  • critical issues, database publication, water, flood, coasts, water availability, drought