Aquatic Resource Monitoring | Region 10 | US EPA

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Aquatic Resource Monitoring

Introduction

The Role of EPA

State Monitoring Strategies

Marine Resources

Streams and Rivers

Photo of estuarine sampling in Alaska
Lakes

Wetlands

Groundwater

Coordination

What's New?
Photo of stream sampling in Washington


INTRODUCTION
Welcome to this website, it is hosted by EPA Region 10, Office of Environmental Assessment. It is organized by aquatic resource category: lakes, streams and rivers, marine resources and wetlands. While there is no one way to organize all of the information on aquatic resource monitoring that is perfect, using resource categories is easily understood by most people. Some of the issues and information for each aquatic resource category will be overlapping. The calendar and what's new sections will cover all resource categories. This website is under construction, so please be patient!

WHAT IS AQUATIC RESOURCE MONITORING?
Aquatic Resource Monitoring provides information on the condition of our lakes, streams, rivers, marine waters and wetlands. There are many ways to assess aquatic resource conditions:
Chemical measurements - monitor the constituents in water, sediments, and fish tissue -- such as levels of dissolved oxygen, suspended sediments, nutrients, metals, oils, and pesticides.
Physical measurements- monitor conditions such as temperature, flow, water color, substrate size, stream shade, stream bank stability and lake shore condition.
Biological measurements- monitor the abundance and variety of resident aquatic plant and animal life and/or the ability of test organisms to survive in sample water.

WHY MONITOR?
Monitoring can be conducted for many purposes. Five major purposes are to:
1. Characterize aquatic resources and identify changes or trends over time;
2. Identify specific existing or emerging aquatic resource problems;
3. Gather information to design specific resource protection, pollution prevention, restoration, or remediation programs
4. Determine whether program goals -- such as compliance with pollution regulations or effective Best Management Practices (BMPs) -- are being met; and
5. Respond to emergencies, such as spills and floods.

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WHAT IS EPA'S ROLE?
The responsibility to monitor water quality rests with many different agencies. State pollution control agencies and Indian tribes have key monitoring responsibilities and conduct vigorous monitoring programs. EPA provides funding, assistance, and training to States, Tribes, or other agencies during cooperative monitoring projects or special studies. Our activities include (1) technical review and oversight of EPA funded monitoring programs, (2) planning and oversight of Regional special studies, (3) training to help other agencies develop and maintain their expertise in monitoring, and (4) assistance with data management and data assessment. Below are links to the actual Statutory and Regulatory language under the Clean Water Act.

Other Federal agencies such as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are examples of Federal agencies that conduct water quality monitoring to support their programs and activities. In addition, private entities such as universities, watershed associations, environmental groups, and industries also conduct water quality monitoring. Volunteer monitors -- private citizens who volunteer to regularly collect aquatic resource information -- are a rapidly growing contingent providing increasingly important environmental information.



Statutory Requirements under the Clean Water Act

106(e)

Beginning in fiscal year 1974 the administrator shall not make any grant under this section to any State which has not
provided or is not carrying out as a part of its program -

(1) the establishment and operation of appropriate devices, methods, systems, and procedures necessary to monitor, and to compile and analyze data on (including classification according to eutrophic condition) the quality of navigable waters and to the extent practicable, ground waters including biological monitoring; and provision for annually updating such data and including it in the report required under section 305 of this Act;

305(b)

(1) Each State shall prepare and submit to the Administrator by April 1, 1975, and shall bring up to date by April 1, 1976, and biennially thereafter, a report which shall include -
(A) a description of the water quality of all navigable waters in such State during the preceding year, with appropriate supplemental descriptions as shall be required to take into account seasonal, tidal, and other variations, correlated with the quality of water required by the objective of this Act . . .
(B) an analysis of the extent to which all navigable waters of such State provide for the protection and propagation of a balanced population of shellfish, fish, and wildlife, and allow recreational activities in and on the water;
(C) an analysis of the extent to which the elimination of the discharge of pollutants and a level of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of a balanced population of shellfish, fish, and wildlife and allows recreational activities in and on the water, have been or will be achieved by the requirements of this Act, together with recommendations as to additional action necessary to achieve such objectives and for what waters such additional action is necessary;
(D) an estimate of (i) the environmental impact, (ii) the economic and social costs necessary to achieve the objective of this Act in such State, and the economic and social benefits of such achievement, and (iv) an estimate of the date of such achievement; and
(E) a description of the nature and extent of nonpoint sources of pollutants, and recommendations as to the programs which must be undertaken to control each category of such sources, including an estimate of the costs of implementing such programs.


Regulatory Requirements

40 CFR Part 130.0 Program summary and purpose.

(a) This subpart establishes policies and program requirements for water quality planning, management and implementation under sections 106, 205(j), non-construction management 205(g), 208, 303 and 305 of the Clean Water Act. The Water Quality Management (WQM) process described in the Act and in this regulation provides the authority for a consistent national approach for maintaining, improving and protecting water quality while allowing States to implement the most effective individual programs. The process is implemented jointly by EPA, the States, interstate agencies, and areawide, local and regional planning organizations. This regulation explains the requirements of the Act, describes the relationships between the several components of the WQM process and outlines the roles of the major participants in the process. The components of the WQM process are discussed below.

(b) Water quality standards (WQS) are the State's goals for individual water bodies and provide the legal basis for control decisions under the Act. Water quality monitoring activities provide the chemical, physical and biological data needed to determine the present quality of a State's waters and to identify the sources of pollutants in those waters. The primary assessment of the quality of a State's water is contained in its biennial Report to Congress required by section 305(b) of the Act.

40 CFR Part 130.4 Water quality monitoring.

(a) In accordance with section 106(e)(1), States must establish appropriate monitoring methods and procedures (including biological monitoring) necessary to compile and analyze data on the quality of waters of the United States and, to the extent practicable, ground-waters. This requirement need not be met by Indian Tribes. However, any monitoring and/or analysis activities undertaken by a Tribe must be performed in accordance with EPA's quality assurance/quality control guidance.

(b) The State's water monitoring program shall include collection and analysis of physical, chemical and biological data and quality assurance and control programs to assure scientifically valid data. The uses of these data include determining abatement and control priorities; developing and reviewing water quality standards, total maximum daily loads, wasteload allocations and load allocations; assessing compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by dischargers; reporting information to the public through the section 305(b) report and reviewing site-specific monitoring efforts.

40 CFR Part 35.260 Limitations.

(a) The Regional Administrator will not award section 106 funds to any State which does not monitor and compile, analyze, and report water quality data as described in section 106(e)(1) of the Clean Water Act.

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Other important EPA information on Monitoring:

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STATE MONITORING STRATEGIES
In 2003, EPA published the "Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program". This document recommends the basic elements of a State water monitoring program and serves as a tool to help EPA and the States determine whether a monitoring program meets the prerequisites of CWA Section 106(e)(1). Each State is in the process of developing a comprehensive monitoring program strategy that serves its water quality management needs and addresses all State waters, including streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal areas, wetlands, and groundwater. Alaska and Idaho have final monitoring strategies (below), the strategies for Washington and Oregon are near completion.
AMPv3_09242004.pdf
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MARINE RESOURCES
Photo of estuarine sampling

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WASHINGTON
Washington Department of Ecology
The Washington State Department of Ecology has conducted marine water quality monitoring at a number of stations in Puget Sound, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay since 1973. About 40 stations are monitored each year on a monthly basis. Some stations are monitored every year while some are monitored on a rotating schedule.

Parameters monitored include profiles of temperature, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen, light transmission, pH, as well as discrete samples at various depths for fecal coliform bacteria, chlorophyll a, phaeopigment, nitrate, nitrite, ammonium, orthophosphate, silicate and Secchi disk depth. Generally samples were taken at 0, 10, and 30 meters depth.

Data quality and measurement procedures have varied significantly over the period. Beware of these attributes before any analysis of these data. Data quality is indicated by a data qualifier code (qc) with four levels (see table). Only data with a qc of level 1 or 2 are displayed from this site. Measurement procedures are referenced for sampling from 1990 onwards. The monitoring data are used to assess marine water quality. Summary analyses show relative water quality concern and sensitivity to eutrophication for sites within Puget Sound.

For additional information visit their webpage:

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OREGON
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
The objectives of Oregon's Coastal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Project are to:
  • Develop and test ecological indicators and monitoring designs while developing an ongoing coastal program
  • Integrate and synthesize existing coastal data;
  • Conduct program within context of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds
  • Address environmental problems: Low dissolved oxygen, eutrophication, chemical & biological contamination, habitat modification, cumulative impacts
  • Water Quality Status Assessment (305b)
  • 303d listings
  • Contribute to providing a scientific and statistically valid basis for:
Data collection
Resource management
  • Take the tools developed during the project and build them into DEQ’s core programs, including ambient monitoring.

For additional information visit their webpage:

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON MARINE MONITORING:

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STREAMS AND RIVERS:

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ALASKA
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
The Water Quality Standards, Assessment and Reporting Program provides information and technical assistance for water monitoring and data collection in support of decision makers' research of water quality issues.

For additional information visit their webpage:

USGS - The Alaska District
The U.S. Geological Survey's water resources mission is to provide the hydrologic information and understanding needed for wise use and management of the Nation's water resources. In Alaska, water resources studies include collecting hydrologic data, conducting hydrologic appraisals, and doing basic and applied research in hydrologic topics unique to cold climates.

For additional information visit their webpage:
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IDAHO
Idaho Division of Environmental Quality
As the agency responsible for protecting Idaho's surface waters under the federal Clean Water Act, DEQ continually monitors and assesses the state's rivers, streams, and lakes. DEQ's Beneficial Use Reconnaissance Program (BURP) sends crews into the field to collect biological samples, chemical measures, and habitat data from Idaho's surface water. DEQ also solicits and considers data submitted from outside sources in its assessments.

For additional information visit their webpage:

USGS - The Idaho District
The water resources of Idaho, the Gem State, consist of numerous streams, springs, lakes, and aquifer systems. Each year, streamflow is measured at about 280 locations, water levels are measured in about 900 wells, water quality is sampled at over 400 locations, and water-use data are collected throughout the state. These hydrologic data and other data are used in research and hydrologic studies to describe the quantity, quality, and location of Idaho's water resources.

For additional information visit their webpage:
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OREGON
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
In support of the ODEQ mission statement of restoring and protecting Oregon's water, air and land, the Watershed Monitoring section is currently involved in the following activities:
  1. Collecting representative, valid environmental data through physical, chemical, and biological sampling and assessment.
  2. Managing environmental data to ensure availability of accurate and complete data from agency programs and the general public.
  3. Analyze and interpret water quality related data to produce reports which identify water quality conditions, identify threats to water quality, evaluate trends, and model proposed actions.
For additional information visit their webpage:

USGS - The Oregon District
This office is responsible for water-resources investigations for Oregon and part of southern Washington. In all, USGS personnel collect and disseminate hydrologic data for nearly 200 stream-gaging stations and 25 partial-record stations, stage and content records for 26 lakes and reservoirs, and water-quality records for 53 streamflow-gaging stations. This office cooperates with more than 40 local, State, and Federal agencies in Oregon. Cooperative activities include water-resources data collection and interpretive water-availability and water-quality studies.

For additional information visit their webpage:
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

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WASHINGTON
Washington Department of Ecology
The Washington State Department of Ecology has conducted monthly water quality monitoring at hundreds of river and stream stations throughout the state since 1959. They monitor about 80 stations each year, some on a one-year basis, some on a five-year rotation, and some are monitored continuously. Monitored attributes include temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, total suspended solids, fecal coliform bacteria, ammonia-N, nitrate+nitrite-N, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, soluble reactive phosphorus, and at most stations, discharge. Dissolved metals are monitored bi-monthly at a few stations.

Ecology has been assessing biological communities in streams throughout Washington state since 1993. Although we have focused on characterizing aquatic invertebrate communities, detailed descriptions have been provided for physical and chemical attributes in each stream. The goal of our monitoring effort is to detect degradation due to forest and agricultural practices, urbanization, or other controllable sources of impact. Additional information provided for stream site characterizations include: canopy cover, stream bed substrate, flow, turbidity, water temperature, acidity (pH), and dissolved oxygen. Detecting degradation through evaluation of invertebrate communities requires establishment of a description for reference condition. This is the focal point for developing analytical tools commonly used to evaluate stream condition and "biological integrity".

For additional information visit their webpages:

USGS - The Washington District
The Washington District is one of 48 districts in the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. The District's mission is to collect, analyze and disseminate the impartial hydrologic data and information needed to wisely manage water resources for the people of the United States and the State of Washington. The USGS operates local and statewide networks to collect high-quality data that define natural and human-induced hydrologic conditions. They analyze hydrologic processes through investigations and research to increase understanding of important water-resource issues and to promote informed decision making. They maintain real-time and historical data bases and publish peer-reviewed interpretive and data reports to disseminate unbiased hydrologic information. To assure that their work is relevant and useful, they form partnerships with Federal, State, and local agencies, Native American governments, and other public organizations.

For additional information visit their webpage:

Washington State - Governor's Salmon Recovery Office
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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON RIVERS AND STREAMS MONITORING:

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LAKES

WASHINGTON
Washington Department of Ecology
Ecology has monitored rivers and streams since before 1959 and, thanks largely to federal grants, we were able to monitor lakes from 1989 through 1999. During that period, we collected data from more than 180 lakes, with help from about 250
volunteers. In 2000, however, we were unable to obtain sufficient funding and we had to discontinue the full program. The volunteer monitoring component continued an additional year, but has now ended. We still file data from volunteers who have
chosen to continue, but we no longer recruit new volunteers or meet with current volunteers. Nor are we able to assess the data. At present, there is no state-wide monitoring or assessment of lake water quality.

For additional information visit their webpage:

Additional websites for lake monitoring:
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WETLANDS
Photo of intertidal wetland sampling in Oregon

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GROUNDWATER:

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IDAHO
Idaho Department of Water Resources
The Idaho Statewide Ground Water Quality Monitoring Program is designed to assess the current condition of Idaho's ground water quality, to identify potential problem areas and to detect trends. The program is a cooperative effort between the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Resources Division.
For additional information visit their webpage:

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OREGON
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
The objectives of the Oregon DEQ groundwater monitoring program are to determine the areas and extent of groundwater contamination, to determine Groundwater Management Area trends and permit oversight (solid and hazardous wastes).

For additional information visit their webpage:

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WASHINGTON
Washington Department of Ecology
The Washington Department of Ecology's Environmental Assessment program maintains a staff of groundwater scientists that conduct technical studies across a broad spectrum of groundwater related issues.

For additional information visit their webpage:

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COORDINATION
Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership (PNAMP)
The purpose of PNAMP is to provide a forum for coordinating state, federal, and tribal aquatic habitat and salmonid monitoring programs. PNAMP provides leadership through the development and the advancement of recommendations and agency level agreements that are considered for adoption by the participating agencies.

For more information:

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WHAT'S NEW?
New!! The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s,Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Strategy has recently been completed and can be viewed at
http://www.state.ak.us/dec/water/wqsar/monitoring/monitoringStrategy.pdf.

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URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OEA.NSF/Development/Water+Monitoring

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