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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Basic Course: Supplemental Topics (c)

Program Elements: Identifying Objectives

Monitoring and Assessment

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The first element for an effective monitoring and assessment program is identification of the monitoring objectives critical in generating data that will serve the States/Tribes’ management decision needs. Monitoring objectives should reflect the decision needs relevant to all types of waters of the United States, including streams, rivers, lakes, the Great Lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, coastal areas, wetlands, and, to the extent possible, groundwater.

Monitoring objectives are broad and answer questions such as:

  • What is the overall quality of waters in the State/Tribe?
    What is the extent to which waters meet the objectives of the Clean Water Act, attain applicable water quality standards, and provide for the protection and propagation of balanced populations of fish, shellfish, and wildlife?
  • To what extent is water quality changing over time?
    Are the waters getting better?
  • What are the problem areas and areas needing protection?
    Do the waters (e.g., a water body, stream, lake, segment of a stream) support their water quality standards? Can the waters be used for recreation, aquatic life support, drinking water sources, and/or fish consumption?
  • What level of protection is needed?
    What level of protection has the State/Tribe established that is being monitored against? Monitoring programs provide the data to conduct triennial reviews of State/Tribe water quality standards, conduct use attainability analyses, develop and adopt revised designated uses and water quality criteria, establish water quality-based effluent limits in NPDES permits, establish total maximum daily loads, and assess which levels of best management practices for nonpoint sources are most appropriate.
  • How effective are clean water projects and programs?
    Monitoring is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of specific projects and overall programs, including but not limited to Section 319 (nonpoint source control), Section 314 (Clean Lakes), Section 303(d) (TMDLs), Section 402 (NPDES permits), water quality standards modifications, compliance programs (Discharge Monitoring Report information), and generally to determine the success of management measures.
M&A Program Elements

» Plan:

  • Identify Objectives
  • Design the Project & Develop a QA Plan

» Implement:

  • Collect Data
  • Manage Data
  • Interpret Data

» Communicate:

  • Convey Results
  • Evaluate & Improve

It is important to consider the scale for the monitoring objectives. That is, will the assessment apply to the stream reach scale, the watershed scale, the State or Tribal-wide scale? Ideally, the State/Tribe will set up its monitoring and assessment program to support decision-making at multiple scales.

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

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