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South Atlantic Water Science Center - North Carolina Office

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Map of North Carolina highlighting the project study area

Project Overview

Full Title

 Roanoke, Chowan, Albemarle, Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, Cape Fear, and White Oak River Basins

Project Chief
Douglas Harned

Period of Project

Team Members
Melinda Chapman
Michelle Moorman
Thomas Cuffney
Ana María García
Gerard McMahon
Eric Staub
Silvia Terziotti

Science Topic:
Increased Population and Water Resources
Groundwater resources
Agriculture and Water Quality
Estuarine and Coastal Processes
Support of Federal and State Programs


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Albemarle-Pamlico NAWQA

Project Summary


The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Study is an ongoing program of the U.S. Geological Survey to assess the status and trends of the Nation's streams and ground-water quality and to examine the processes that control water quality.

The Albemarle–Pamlico drainage basin comprises a 72,492 square-kilometer area drained by four major rivers. The headwaters of the basin lie in the mountains of Virginia, with the outlet in the estuaries and sounds of North Carolina. It contains the second largest estuary system in the country, rapidly developing urban areas, the Neuse River--one of the highest visibility river basins in the country, and intensive agricultural development (corn, soybeans, cotton, and hogs) with high agricultural chemical use. The rivers of the ALBE wash the sediment and waste of the urban Piedmont, and pesticides and nutrients of the agricultural Coastal Plain into a sensitive, essentially closed, estuarine receiving body.


Assessment of the Albemarle-Pamlico study area (ALBE) began in 1991 with an intense 3-year period of surface-water, ground-water, and ecological data collection (Cycle I). Data collection from 1993 to 2001 included ground-water flow path sampling and monthly surface-water sampling at three sites selected for long-term trend evaluation. Intensive sampling began again in 2002 (Cycle II), with a focus on evaluating the effects of urban development on ecology and water quality (Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems (EUSE)), nutrient source and delivery modeling (Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed Attributes (SPARROW) modeling), and studying water quality of the Castle Hayne and Piedmont aquifers. Planning for Cycle III study (2011-2020) is undeway.


The goals of the NAWQA Program are:

  1. Status: Assess the status of water quality
  2. Trends: Assess trends in water quality
  3. Understanding: Identify the factors that affect water quality.

The principle work elements for Cycle II study are:

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