The National Water Quality Monitoring Council (Council) was formed in 1997 as the permanent successor to the Intergovernmental Task Force on Monitoring Water Quality (ITFM, 1992-1995). The Council reports to the Advisory Committee on Water Information, convened by the Department of the Interior under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Council is comprised of a balanced membership of 35 representatives, from Federal, interstate, state, tribal, local and municipal governments, watershed groups, universities, and the private sector, including volunteer monitoring. The Council provides the major national forum for the coordination of consistent and scientifically defensible federal and state water quality monitoring methods and strategies. Such strategies are intended to improve understanding of different impacts, such as polluted runoff and habitat alteration, on water quality and to define a national agenda of needed monitoring, research, and assessment models and tools.
Monitoring is a more important element of management than ever before. Beginning in 1972, progress in water quality restoration under the Clean Water Act was accomplished by controlling the relatively easily identified and regulated sources of point-source pollution. These sources now comprise just a fraction of the total pollution load to America's waters. Recent inventories of the causes of degraded waters identify sources that result from land uses and management practices-non-point sources that discharge intermittently and are dispersed across the landscape. They contribute silt, bacteria and elevated temperatures and nutrient-pollutants that are not easily regulated. Because of monitoring, the subtlety and extent of these impacts is better understood. Monitoring is essential to identify these sources, prove a further understanding of their impacts, and guide control efforts. Monitoring ultimately proves the value of the controls that are implemented.
The Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP), released by the President in February of 1998, assigned to the Council the production of several critical summaries and guidance on water quality monitoring. The Council's efforts are designed to provide information needed for program implementation at many levels, from local watershed organizations and tribes to state and Federal governments and the private sector.
Results from the first National Monitoring Conference, co-sponsored in July 1998 by the National Water Quality Monitoring Council and the Ground Water Protection Council, affirmed the need and importance for continued work toward improving and coordinating water quality monitoring. The recommendations from the conference provided additional direction for the Council, and stressed the need for improved communication and outreach both to the water quality monitoring community and to the public at large.
The Council has established the following goals, with accompanying objectives and specific tasks, to meet important program needs, with a special emphasis on supporting the needs of watershed management. The resulting assessments, summaries and guidance should provide fundamental information useful to the monitoring community at many levels. If sufficient resources can be provided to carry out these goals, they will address many of the needs for environmental restoration as defined in the Clean Water Action Plan, as well as other important programs such as Source Water Protection , Total Maximum Daily Loads, and concerns about ground water.
Statement of Purpose
Define and promote goal-oriented monitoring by proposing strategies for sampling, data storage and retrieval, data analysis, interpretation, and reporting in support of the evolving information needs of water quality management.
Water quality monitoring can be defined in many ways. One view of monitoring suggests it provides information that underpins water quality management activities such as development of 303(d) lists and 305(b) reports and total maximum daily load allocations. Monitoring can also be defined as supporting scientific efforts to expand the frontiers of understanding of biogeochemical 'processes' affecting water quality. In recent years, the comparability and accuracy of the water quality information produced by monitoring, of all types, has been questioned (e.g. PEER, 1999; and GAO, 2000). The Government Performance and Results Act is precipitating a review of the ability of monitoring to effectively and efficiently support management decision-making. The role of science in monitoring is currently being explored as calls for 'sound science' in monitoring is being heard more frequently (Ward, 2000).
The Information Strategies Workgroup (via USGS funding) supported an assessment of data analysis methods currently employed to produce comparable water quality information (both in management and science). The findings suggest a lack of uniformity in data analysis methods in water quality monitoring, across agencies, however, there is uniformity within some agencies, such as the USGS. The general conclusion of the study suggests that non-comparable information is being produced by water quality monitoring in the U.S.
The Information Strategies Work Group, while addressing the 'information' end of water quality monitoring (i.e. data storage and retrieval, data analysis, reporting, and use of information by management), carefully integrates its activities with those of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council's Methods Board. The Work Group is also exploring the feasibility and practicality of developing a companion 'Board' supporting development of comparable data analysis and interpretation methods. Comparable data, common data sharing strategies and comparable methods for analyzing the data are fundamental to creation of consistent and accurate water quality information systems in support of water quality management and science.
The Water Information Strategies Work Group provides a framework and forum for defining and developing data analysis and reporting methods that incorporate the production of comparable information into monitoring system design. The framework permits a direct connection between information needs/expectations of water quality managers and the public and the ability of monitoring to produce information. The approach focuses on bringing experts together with work group members to:
Where appropriate and feasible, pilot studies, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with the private sector, and other collaborative efforts will be encouraged to enhance communication and use of more goal oriented monitoring system design methods.
Objectives and Tasks
The Information Strategies Work Group has completed an assessment of data analysis currently employed in water quality monitoring (Griffith, 2001). Given the lack of comparability in data analysis methods employed, the Work Group will continue its efforts to:
To meet the above objectives, three White Papers are currently under development.
White Paper 1 will examine the changing face of water quality management. Water quality concerns include impacts of water diversions; evidence of coastal water quality deterioration; biological phenomenon such as endocrine disruption; amphibian and mollusk declines; as well as expectations associated with legal reinterpretation of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act; source water protection plans and Consumer Confidence Reports required by the Safe Drinking Water Act; and refined definitions of standards compliance. These changes, and others, are greatly expanding the information that 'monitoring' needs to provide water quality managers. At the same time, the methods employed to analyze water quality data are not coordinated to generate consistent and comparable management information. The increased expectation for information, without coordination in how data are analyzed, is occurring at a time when monitoring budgets are decreasing. The objective of the first white paper is to assess the management changes and resulting monitoring impacts in order to find new strategies for connecting monitoring to the information needs of management.
White Paper 2 will examine the institutional and technological limitations that hinder the ability of monitoring to meet the evolving information needs of management. Much of its content will evolve from White Paper 1.
White Paper 3 will explore the feasibility of synthesizing existing monitoring system design information into a web based, information driven 'checklist' with links to the key sources of design guidance and support.
The checklist may include such steps as:
The White Papers will be drafted under guidance of the Water Information Strategies Work Group. The work group and Council members will review early drafts of the papers. The papers will eventually be published in leading water-monitoring journals.
The Information Strategies Work Group have developed a proposal to create a Data Analysis Methods Board. Estimated cost of the Board is $750,000. The new Board would seek ways to introduce comparable methods into data analysis via statistical, graphical and tabular methods.Topics for future consideration by the Information Strategies Work Group include:
General Accounting Office. 2000. Water quality: Key EPA and State decisions limited by inconsistent and incomplete data. GAO Report Number GAO/RCED-00-54, March 15, Washington, D.C.
Griffith, L.M., R.C. Ward, G.B. McBride, and J.C. Loftis. 2001. Data Analysis Considerations in Producing 'Comparable' Information for Water Quality Management Purposes'. Technical Report 01-01, National Water Quality Monitoring Council, USGS, Reston, Virginia.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). 1999. Murky Waters: Official Water Quality Reports are all Wet. Report Number 27, PEER, 2001 S Street, N.W., Suite 570, Washington, D.C. 20009-1125, May (http://www.peer.org)
Ward, R.C. 2000. Incorporating 'Sound Science' into Water Quality Monitoring. Paper Presented at the Virginia Water Monitoring Council's annual meeting in Roanoke, Virginia, Nov. 7, 2000.
Statement of Purpose
Provide a framework and a forum for comparing, evaluating, and promoting methods that produce data that can be compared between water-quality-monitoring programs.
The Methods and Data Comparability Board was established by the National Water Quality Monitoring Council to promote and coordinate voluntary participation of the monitoring community in the use of collection and analysis methods that produce water-quality-monitoring data of known and documented quality. Methods used for collection and analyses of physical, chemical, biological, and microbiological data from surface water, ground water and the unsaturated zone must include sufficient meta-data and quality assurance and control information to allow comparison of data sets collected and analyzed by different protocols.
The Methods Board will provide a framework and a forum for comparing, evaluating, and promoting methods that produce data that can be compared among water quality monitoring programs. The approach will focus on bringing experts together with Board members to define and specify goals, benchmark current associated efforts, coordinate with other groups working toward the same objectives, and develop guidance for the monitoring community. Where appropriate and feasible, pilot studies, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with the private sector, and other collaborative efforts will be encouraged to enhance communication and use of comparable monitoring methods.
The Methods Board conducts its business through seven work groups: National Environmental Methods Index (NEMI); Performance Based Systems (PBMS); Laboratory and Field Accreditation; Water Quality Data Elements (WQDE); Biology, Nutrients, and Outreach. The work groups focus on products in the short term while planning strategically for the longer term. The relationship between these products and the Board's longer-term strategy is shown in the attached "Methods and Data Comparability Framework" chart. The information presented below provides current work group product status. This material is also summarized in the attached tabular format that includes resource estimates. Completion of the tasks described below is dependent on the availability of adequate resources, both internal and extramural.
Objectives and Tasks
NEMI - Construct the National Environmental Methods Index - This will be an Internet-based comparative compendium of sampling protocols and analytical methods. The index will be used to promote improved water quality decision-making by monitoring groups. NEMI will allow rapid communication and comparison of critical parameters for use with method selection and modifications, and allow comparison of data collected by various monitoring methods.
Phase 1 was completed in March 2001 and contains 100 commonly used analytical methods in a prototype web site.
Phase 2 will be completed in December 2001 and will contain 350 methods in a web site that will be revised based on reviews by Board and Council members, as well as additional external parties. (Priority 12)
Phase 3 will be an ongoing effort to add methods and maintain and revise the web site - ongoing after phase 2 complete.
PBMS - Develop and conduct pilot tests for the implementation of a Performance-Based System - Based on a Board developed position paper that explains and defines a PBMS, pilot studies will be developed and implemented to test the performance-based process. Initial pilots selected for Board focus are:
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) - Supported by EPA and USGS, and voluntary in kind contributions from five non-federal organizations on the Methods Board. A CRADA was developed to manage the collaborative effort among laboratories. The laboratory analyses were completed in December 2000 and data analyses were completed in March 2001. Results will be presented in a paper prepared by June 2001 that will also include key elements of the original position paper. (Priority 4)
Total Nutrient Method - A pilot test will be developed to determine data quality, measurement objectives and performance criteria for a nutrient method that could replace the kjeldahl method. This pilot study may initially consist of analyses of existing data The pilot plan will be developed by September 2001. (Priority 11)
Field Biological Methods -A pilot study approach will be developed that provides a means whereby organizations can characterize their field methods and compare their methods and data to those collected by other organizations. The Field Focus group will develop the pilot study approach during 2001. (Priority 16)
Additionally, implementation aspects of PBMS will be investigated that includes use in a state regulatory context.
Laboratory and Field Accreditation - The issue of accreditation as it relates to analytical laboratories and field personnel is the focus of this work group.
A white paper on the Value of Accreditation was prepared and presented to the Council and approved in February 2001.
An approach to supporting and coordinating with the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC) and Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Board (ELAB) has been developed. Implementation of the plan is ongoing.
A survey has been developed to determine the need to develop uniform standards for field activities. The Survey was sent to Board and Council member organizations for completion and results of the survey will be summarized and presented to NELAC in May 2001.(Priority 1)
Nutrients - This work group will develop input on nutrients to respond to the needs of the PBMS, NEMI, and WQDE work groups and to respond to other national nutrient methods issues.
Develop a Board nutrient criteria strategy white paper with. Nutrients - This work group will develop input on nutrients to respond to the needs of the PBMS, NEMI, and WQDE work groups and to respond to other national nutrient methods issues.
Biology - This work group will develop input on biology to respond to the needs of the PBMS, NEMI, and WQDE work groups and respond to other national biology methods issues.
Outreach - Develop and implement outreach activities and partnerships for the Board and its work groups.
Statement of Purpose
To build and create partnerships to foster collaboration among the many elements of the water monitoring community, including federal agencies, state and local governments, Tribes, universities, volunteer groups, property owners, the private sector and other monitoring stakeholders. Provide guidance and assistance to the members of the Council so that they can serve as ambassadors to both coordinate monitoring and improve overall awareness of the value of monitoring. Assist Council members, work groups and the Methods Board with techniques to announce, distribute and promote their products for use by the monitoring community.
Many water quality monitoring organizations collect, analyze and distribute data and information required for decision-making. Collaboration at all levels is essential as no single agency can afford to gather the diverse information needed for informed decision-making. Through collaboration and cooperation, integration of the many organization efforts can be accomplished be establishing partnerships of multi-organizational groups at national, state, tribal and watershed levels. Outreach is essential to inform and engage the public about the quality of the Nation's water resources and to bridge the gap between science and society. Outreach enhances collaboration and educates the public and monitoring professional alike.
Work Plan Priority #1: Organize the 3rd National Water Quality Monitoring Conference (to be held in Madison Wisconsin in May 20th through 23rd, 2002.
|Co-Chairs:||Linda Green (URI), Charlie Peters (USGS), Chuck Spooner (EPA)|
|Site Logistics:||David Denig-Chakroff (AMWA)|
|Participants:||Tim Kubiak, Jim Cox, Lyle Cowles, Clifford Annis|
|Contractors:||Ground Water Protection Council and Tetratech|
Work Plan Priority #2: Identify Federal agency water monitoring program gaps and overlaps related to both federal and non-federal lands.
|Subcommittee:||Tim Kubiak (FWS), Chuck Spooner (EPA), Lyle Cowles, Jim Cox|
|Recommended Budget:||$4,000 (travel expenses for four subcommittee meetings)|
Work Plan Priority #3: Inventory and assess state, regional, and interstate watershed monitoring councils.
|Subcommittee:||Fred Banach, Lyle Cowles, Linda Green, Charlie Peters|
|Recommended Budget:||No special needs|
Work Plan Priority #4: Expand the NWQMC WEB Presence
|Chairman:||Toni Johnson (USGS)|
|Participants:||Linda Green (URI), Cliff Annis (Merck), Charlie Peters (USGS)|
|Recommended Budget:||No special needs|
Work Plan Priority #5: Develop a series of NWQMC Fact Sheets
|Chairman:||Linda Green (URI), Fred Banach (CT DEP)|
|Layout and Printing:||USGS (Toni Johnson)|
|Recommended Budget:||$10,000 for technical editor and $15,000 for printing costs.|
Statement of Purpose
The mission of the Watershed Component Interactions Group is to facilitate a holistic understanding of the interactions among various components of watersheds and develop better multimedia monitoring strategies to assess these interactions.
Historically fragmented management of watersheds as discrete media of fresh surface water, saline surface water (estuarine and near coastal waters), ground water, (saturated and unsaturated zones), soil, sediments, and air deposition has resulted in inaccurate assessments of watersheds health. Management decisions made on basis of such assessments have precipitated damage to the environment in many cases. Further damage can be expected in the future unless a more comprehensive understanding of the interaction between watershed components is undertaken and institutionalized in this country's monitoring policies.
Promote consistent methods of monitoring and assessing interactions between components of watersheds
Support the development of methods for including ground water contribution to surface waters in modeling for waste load allocation to such waters (TMDLs to both fresh and saline waters)
Identify & recruit experts in watershed health with special emphasis on coastal watersheds, for the purpose of focused presentations of these topics to the Council and ACWI
Participate in the activities of organizations involved in modeling interaction between components of watersheds
Organize a workshop (in the year 2002) on interaction between watershed components (Council priority approved by ACWI)
Revise & publish fact sheet on Role of the Geologic Framework in Watersheds
Contribute to Council survey regarding monitoring watershed components interactions
Identify impacts of ground water discharge into marine environment on water quality of bays, estuaries and near shore waters
Provide expert presentations on the subject of coastal ecosystems health to Council & ACWI
Compile bibliography of research and current studies on this topic
Compile methods used to quantify ground water movement into the marine environment and impacts of contained pollutants.
Expand Council's expertise on coastal ecosystems health by recruiting members with experience and expertise in this field
Evaluate impact of ground water withdraws on surface water and wetlands
Provide and present case studies on impacts of ground water withdraws on surface water flow and quality especially during recent drought conditions
Summarize information for distribution through Council webpage.
Develop fact sheet on ground water influence on surface ecosystems
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