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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Basic Course: Supplemental Topics (a)

Introduction: Importance of an Integrated Monitoring Program

Monitoring and Assessment

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Under the Clean Water Act, States, Tribes, and Territories have the primary responsibility for monitoring and assessing their waters and reporting on water quality. Long-standing critiques by the Governmental Accountability Office, National Research Council, National Academy of Public Administration, and other independent organizations have found that the Nation and the States/Tribes do not have all the monitoring data needed to effectively manage their water programs. Different monitoring approaches are necessary to make scientifically defensible statements about the condition of waters, track changes, and manage water quality protection and restoration at multiple geographic scales.

Under traditional monitoring approaches, States/Tribes have assessed approximately 20 percent of their streams and rivers, 40 percent of lakes, and 30 percent of bays and estuaries. States/Tribes have generally used a site-specific, targeted monitoring approach because it allows them to focus limited monitoring resources on heavily used or problem waters.

Water quality standards and the methods used to monitor and assess waters vary across States and Regions. Often indicators, parameters, and sampling procedures vary across States/Tribes, and sometimes within them. Methods to determine the spatial extent of the assessment (e.g., ¼ mile or 25 miles downstream) also vary. While this approach is consistent with the Clean Water Act and may be appropriate for management of State/Tribal waters, it complicates the process of generating a regional and national picture of water quality and addressing water quality concerns affecting regional and interstate waters.

Key Point. States should strive to integrate different monitoring approaches and coordinate monitoring activities across the State/Tribe, Region, and Nation to provide data for as broad a range of clean water programs as possible.

EPA issues guidance for use by States/Tribes in implementing their monitoring and assessment programs.

Resource. EPA’s Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program (March 2003).

Resource. Additional guidance is available at EPA’s web page on Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality.

Resource. See also EPA’s web page on the Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM).

Learn More. There are a number of provisions in the Clean Water Act that drive State/Tribal water quality monitoring and assessment. Proceed to the Learn More Topic. » (Note: This link launches a pop-up window.)

For informational purposes only–Not official statements of EPA policy.

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