National Aquatic Resource Surveys Data Analysis Innovation Challenge

Funding Agency:
Environmental Protection Agency

Water is one of the most precious resources on earth yet its quantity and quality is threatened by numerous factors. EPA is inviting scientists and other stakeholders to examine questions using data from the National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS) relating to national priorities including climate change, environmental justice, nutrient management, and other water quality challenges.

Each winner or winning team will receive a prize of $5,000. Winners may receive national recognition for their university or organization as well as for the students, scientist, and project activities by being featured on the NARS Data Challenge webpage. Winners may be invited to present at webinars, conferences and/or other events including reaching EPA, state/tribal, and other water quality specialists. 

NARS is a collaborative program implemented by EPA, states, and tribes to assess the quality of the nation's coastal waters, lakes and reservoirs, rivers and streams, and wetlands. These surveys provide a point in time assessment of the condition of these resources, identify the extent of key stressors, and track changes over time.

The surveys, implemented on a five-year rotating basis among water body types, are in the fourth cycle (National Lakes Assessment, NLA 2022). The four surveys that make up NARS are the National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA), National Lakes Assessment (NLA), National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA), and the National Wetlands Condition Assessment (NWCA). For each survey, EPA selects sampling locations using a statistical survey design and crews use consistent methods to collect data at more than 1,000 sites during a summer index period. There are now more than 20 years of chemical, physical and biological data available, including newly released data from the four most recently completed surveys. Example data include benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, vegetation, zooplankton, nutrient concentrations, sediment chemistry, soil chemistry, physical habitat measurements, microcystin concentrations, and others. These datasets provide an unparalleled opportunity to conduct scientific research on issues of national importance, analyze patterns and associations among co-located variables, and explore innovative approaches to improve assessments of water quality.

The EPA Office of Water invites graduate students, scientists, academics, statisticians, and other analysts to apply the NARS data to examine questions related to national priorities including climate change, environmental justice, nutrient management, and other critical water quality challenges. EPA encourages individuals and teams of researchers that incorporate a variety of disciplines (e.g., environmental science, biology, ecology, geochemistry, statistics, economics, health and social sciences) to apply.


Applicants are encouraged to submit an intent to participate by May 31, 2022 and final entries are due September 30, 2022.


Grad/Prof Students
Post Doctoral Fellows


Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

September 30, 2022