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Water: Monitoring & Assessment

Executive Summary

Elements of a State Water Monitoring and Assessment Program

Clean Water Act §106(e)(1) and 40 CFR Part 35.168(a) provide that EPA award Section 106 funds to a State only if the State has provided for, or is carrying out as part of its program, the establishment and operation of appropriate devices, methods, systems, and procedures necessary to monitor and to compile and analyze data on the quality of navigable waters in the State(3), and provision for annually updating the data and including it in the Section 305(b) report.(4) 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).

Because these elements have not been clearly defined in the past, there is a lot of variability in existing State programs. EPA expects that State water monitoring programs will evolve over the next 10 years so that ultimately all States will have a common foundation of water quality monitoring programs that support State decision needs. EPA expects that most States will employ an iterative process to fully implement a monitoring program that reflects the elements described in this document, and will work with States to identify annual monitoring milestones.

States should develop, over time, a monitoring program addressing the 10 elements summarized below and described in greater detail in the full text of this document. The first of these elements is a long-term state monitoring strategy. This strategy will be State specific, be designed from the monitoring capabilities each State already has, and should include a timeline not to exceed 10 years to complete implementation. EPA believes that state monitoring programs can be upgraded to include all of the elements described below within the next 10 years.

For the FY2004 grant award, a State, in addition to continuing to submit reports under Section 305(b) and annual data updates, should have a monitoring program strategy(5) in place or commit to complete development of such a strategy. Beginning with the FY2005 Section 106 grant cycle, activities from a State's strategy needed to upgrade its monitoring program should be incorporated into work plans for Section 106 grants and Performance Partnership Grants (PPGs) that include Section 106 funds, consistent with the regulations governing the negotiation of work plans at 40 CFR 35.107. The State must continue to submit reports under Section 305(b) and annual data. EPA expects that the State will have fully implemented its strategy by 2014.

The recommended 10 elements of a state water monitoring and assessment program are:

A. Monitoring Program Strategy

The State has a comprehensive monitoring program strategy that serves its water quality management needs and addresses all State waters, including streams, rivers, lakes, the Great Lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, coastal areas, wetlands, and groundwater. The strategy should contain or reference a description of how the State plans to address each of the remaining nine elements. The monitoring program strategy is a long-term implementation plan and should include a timeline, not to exceed ten years(6), for completing implementation of the strategy. EPA believes that state monitoring programs can be upgraded to include all of the elements described below within the next 10 years. It is important that the strategy be comprehensive in scope and identify the technical issues and resource needs that are currently impediments to an adequate monitoring program.

B. Monitoring Objectives

The State has identified monitoring objectives critical to the design of a monitoring program that is efficient and effective in generating data that serve management decision needs. EPA expects the State to develop a strategy and implement a monitoring program that reflects a full range of State water quality management objectives including, but not limited to, Clean Water Act goals. For example, monitoring objectives could include helping establish water quality standards, determining water quality status and trends, identifying impaired waters, identifying causes and sources of water quality problems, implementing water quality management programs, and evaluating program effectiveness. Consistent with the Clean Water Act, monitoring objectives should reflect the decision needs relevant to all types of State waters.

C. Monitoring Design

The State has an approach and rationale for selection of monitoring designs and sample sites that best serve its monitoring objectives. The State monitoring program will likely integrate several monitoring designs (e.g., fixed station, intensive and screening-level monitoring, rotating basin, judgmental and probability design) to meet the full range of decision needs. The State monitoring design should include a probability-based network for making statistically valid inferences about the condition of all State water types, over time. EPA expects the State to use the most efficient combination of monitoring designs to meet its objectives.

D. Core and Supplemental Water Quality Indicators

The State uses a tiered approach to monitoring that includes core indicators selected to represent each applicable designated use, plus supplemental indicators selected according to site-specific or project-specific decision criteria. Core indicators for each water resource type include physical/habitat, chemical/toxicological, and biological/ecological endpoints as appropriate, and can be used routinely to assess attainment with applicable water quality standards throughout the State. Supplemental indicators are used when there is a reasonable expectation that a specific pollutant may be present in a watershed, when core indicators indicate impairment, or to support a special study such as screening for potential pollutants of concern.

E. Quality Assurance

Quality management plans and quality assurance program/project plans are established, maintained, and peer reviewed in accordance with EPA policy to ensure the scientific validity of monitoring and laboratory activities, and to ensure that State reporting requirements are met.

F. Data Management

The State uses an accessible electronic data system for water quality, fish tissue, toxicity, sediment chemistry, habitat, biological data, with timely data entry (following appropriate metadata and State/Federal geo-locational standards) and public access. In the future, EPA will require all States to directly or indirectly make their monitoring data available through the new STORET system. For States that do not currently operate STORET, their monitoring strategies should provide for use of STORET as soon as is practicable. For the 2004 305(b) reports and 303(d) lists, EPA strongly recommends that all States store assessment information using the EPA Assessment Database or an equivalent relational database and define the geographic location of assessment units using the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD).

G. Data Analysis/Assessment

The State has a methodology for assessing attainment of water quality standards based on analysis of various types of data (chemical, physical, biological, land use) from various sources, for all waterbody types and all State waters. The methodology includes criteria for compiling, analyzing, and integrating all readily available and existing information (e.g., volunteer monitoring data, discharge monitoring reports).

H. Reporting

The State produces timely and complete water quality reports and lists called for under Sections 305(b), 303(d), 314, and 319 of the Clean Water Act and Section 406 of the Beaches Act. EPA issued "2002 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report Guidance" on November 19, 2001, to encourage integration and consistency in the development and submission of Section 305(b) water quality reports and Section 303(d) impaired waters lists. EPA will continue to support the use of this integrated reporting framework for future reporting cycles.

Under current regulations, Section 303(d) lists and Section 305(b) reports are due no later than

April 1 of even-numbered years. To remain eligible for Section 106 grants, the State also must submit annual updates of water quality information. This requirement may be satisfied by annually updating 305(b) assessment information or by annually uploading monitoring data to the national STORET warehouse.

I. Programmatic Evaluation

The State, in consultation with its EPA Region, conducts periodic reviews of each aspect of its monitoring program to determine how well the program serves its water quality decision needs for all State waters, including all waterbody types. This should involve evaluating the monitoring program to determine how well each of the elements is addressed and determining how needed changes and additions are incorporated into future monitoring cycles.

J. General Support and Infrastructure Planning

The State identifies current and future resource needs it requires to fully implement its monitoring program strategy. This needs assessment should describe funding, staff, training, laboratory resources, and upcoming improvements.

3. The term "State waters" is used in this document to refer to navigable waters as defined under Section 502 of the Clean Water Act.

4. This document uses the term "State" to refer to States, the District of Columbia and Territories, as defined under Section 502 of the Clean Water Act. Under the CWA and EPA's implementing regulations this requirement applies only to States and not to Interstate Agencies or Tribes (40 CFR §§ 35.168(b), 35.588 ). However, non-State recipients of 106 funds may be required to submit monitoring reports pursuant to the grant. EPA encourages these recipients to follow the recommendations of this guidance to the extent practicable.

5. see Section II, Part A, "Monitoring Program Strategy," of this Elements document

6. i.e., no later than the end of FY2014

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