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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Basic Course: Supplemental Topics (d)

Program Elements: Designing the Project

Monitoring and Assessment

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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

States/Tribes should select a combination of monitoring designs (e.g., fixed station, intensive and screening-level monitoring, rotating basin, judgmental and statistical survey designs) that will yield credible data to support multiple clean water programs and inform management decisions.

The efficiencies of an integrated design should extend beyond monitoring costs to program costs because the design can help States/Tribes prioritize which water bodies need more immediate attention.

The table below presents a selection of monitoring designs that can be used in combination to support management needs.

Monitoring Design Uses
  • Assess WQS attainment for specific segments.
  • Measure localized water quality trends.
  • Identify sources of pollutants to specific waters.
  • Support development of local management measures (TMDL, NPDES permits, nonpoint source best management practices, WQS).
  • Describe proportion of all waters supporting CWA goals, with documented confidence.
  • Measure water quality trends and CWA program effectiveness.
  • Support development of new WQS.
  • Prioritize targeted monitoring.
Modeling and landscape analysis
  • Support development of local management measures (TMDL, NPDES permits, NPS BMPs, WQS).
  • Predict where water quality is likely impaired.
  • Predict water quality trends.
  • Prioritize targeted monitoring.
Illustration. Using monitoring designs and tools together can streamline monitoring for Integrated Reporting. Proceed to the Illustration. » (Note: This link launches a pop-up window.)
Resource. Statistical surveys are a cost-effective means of reporting and communicating to decision-makers and the public about the condition of waters without having to sample every river mile, lake and wetland acre, and estuary square mile in the United States. See EPA’s website on Aquatic Resource Monitoring: Design and Analysis
Resource. EPA and States are working together to improve the ability to accurately characterize the condition of the nation’s waters and to track progress. The National Aquatic Resource Surveys address critical gaps and provide much-needed assistance to States and Tribes to enhance their monitoring programs consistent with their monitoring strategies. See EPA’s website on the National Aquatic Resource Surveys.
Key Point.A Quality Management Plan (QMP) documents how the State/Tribal monitoring program will plan, implement, and assess the effectiveness of its quality assurance and quality control operations. Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) document the planning, implementation, and assessment procedures for a particular project, as well as any specific quality assurance and quality control activities.
Resource. EPA guidance on developing QMPs and QAPPs, see the web page EPA’s Quality System for Environmental Data and Technology.

These plans should reflect the level of data quality that is appropriate for the specific uses of the data, such as comprehensive assessment and listing of impaired waters, TMDL development, NPDES permit issuance, and NPS effectiveness. Data quality and quantity needs will vary according to the consequences of the resulting water quality decisions.

Under 40 CFR 130.4(b), State/Tribal monitoring programs are to include collection and analysis of physical, chemical, and biological data as well as quality assurance and control programs to ensure the data are scientifically valid. Under 40 CFR 31.45, if a grantee’s project involves environmentally related measurements or data generation, the grantee must develop and implement quality assurance practices consisting of policies, procedures, specifications, standards, and documentation sufficient to produce data of adequate quality to meet project objectives and minimize loss of data due to out‑of‑control conditions or malfunctions.

Resource. For a clearinghouse of information on monitoring methods and procedures, visit the National Environmental Methods Index. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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

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