Water-Quality Trends in the Nation's Rivers

Science  27 Mar 1987:
Vol. 235, Issue 4796, pp. 1607-1615
DOI: 10.1126/science.235.4796.1607


Water-quality records from two nationwide sampling networks now permit nationally consistent analysis of long-term water-quality trends at more than 300 locations on major U.S. rivers. Observed trends in 24 measures of water quality for the period from 1974 to 1981 provide new insight into changes in stream quality that occurred during a time of major changes in both terrestrial and atmospheric influences on surface waters. Particularly noteworthy are widespread decreases in fecal bacteria and lead concentrations and widespread increases in nitrate, chloride, arsenic, and cadmium concentrations. Recorded increases in municipal waste treatment, use of salt on highways, and nitrogen fertilizer application, along with decreases in leaded gasoline consumption and regionally variable trends in coal production and combustion during the period appear to be reflected in water-quality changes.